New Brunswick

Fort Folly First Nation attempts to bring back Mi'kmaq language

A month-long course designed to teach young Mi'kmaq their native language wraps up Thursday.

Elder from Pabineau brought to community to teach local children

Elder Gilbert Sewell tells a group of about 50 children in Sackville about he Mi'kmaq culture. (Lindsay Michael/CBC)

A month-long course designed to teach young Mi'kmaq their native language wraps up Thursday.

Brianna Hunter has been taking the course from Mi'kmaq elder Gilbert Sewell for eight years.

"When we come in we don't have any knowledge at all because no one of my immediate family really speaks Mi'kmaq," said Hunter, the 19-year-old daughter of Fort Folly Chief Rebecca Knockwood.

Brianna Hunter has been taking a course in Mi'kmaq language and culture from elder Gilbert Sewell for eight years. (Lindsay Michael/CBC)
"But now you can catch what he's saying and you understand it a lot more. And we try to teach [the younger] kids the language too."

Sewell is an elder, storyteller and Mi'kmaq language instructor from Pabineau First Nation and has been teaching the course every July for 15 years.

Along with teaching the young Mi'kmaq the language, he tries to teach them about their culture as well.

"What I do is teach the children about native folklore and legends and medicinal plants and what to eat in the woods if you are lost … a lot of things I learned from my grandfather when I was young."

Fort Folly First Nation brings Sewell to the community near Dorchester to deliver the course. Sewell says when he started the course 15 years ago, the students had no knowledge of ther native language or even a sense of their own identity.

Pabineau elder Gilbert Sewell has been teaching Mi'kmac children about their language and culture for 15 years. (Lindsay Michael/CBC)
"Students at first would shy away from it because they didn't know who they were," said Sewell. "And they were shy, saying `I come from a reserve,' you know what I mean?"

Sewell says the children he's worked with have gone on to universities and jobs and work within the community.

Knockwood is the first female chief to lead Fort Folly First Nation and says the hope is to bring the Mi'kmaq language back in the community.

"We have very few elders left, so we have to bring in an elder from Pabineau to teach our children," said Knockwood. "And I'm hoping to carry that on. I'm hoping to bring the language back."

Her daughter was one of three students in the course this summer and says she's making a lot of progress.

"It flies by, but you actually learn a lot in that amount of time," said Hunter.


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