Nova Scotia

Mi'kmaw officially recognized as Nova Scotia's original language at Sunday ceremony

The Mi'kmaw Language Act that recognizes Mi'kmaw as the original language of Nova Scotia officially became law Sunday at a ceremony held at Potlotek First Nation in Richmond County.

Mi'kmaw Language Act will take effect on Oct. 1

Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc and Grand Chief Norman Sylliboy shake hands during the ceremony as premier Tim Houston and L'nu affairs minister Karla MacFarlane applaud. (Government of Nova Scotia)

The Mi'kmaw Language Act that recognizes Mi'kmaw as the original language of Nova Scotia officially became law Sunday at a proclamation ceremony held at Potlotek First Nation in Richmond County.

Minister of L'nu Affairs Karla MacFarlane first announced the government's intention to enact the legislation in October 2021.

MacFarlane said Sunday that the province will take further steps to invest in the promotion and revitalization of the language based on the recommendations of a joint team committee that is to be formed.

"We know right now that there are approximately 5,000 individuals that speak Mi'kmaw," the minister said. 

"If we don't try to revitalize this and promote it, by 2030 anyone that's under the age of three will lose the language and the opportunity to learn it."

Left to right: Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc; premier Tim Houston; Chief Sidney Peters, Glooscap First Nation , and Chief Terrance Paul, Membertou First Nation (Government of Nova Scotia)

The legislation was introduced in April and will take effect on Oct. 1, which is Treaty Day.

Noting the importance of the language to Mi'kmaw history, cultural identity and teachings, Norman Sylliboy, Grand Chief of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council, said in a statement that in the past Mi'kmaw children were punished for speaking it.

"Despite all of the efforts to destroy it, our language is still here and we are still here, and that shows our resilience as a people," Sylliboy said.

"Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report and the Calls to Action, I am pleased that we have begun to work collaboratively with the government to ensure that our language thrives and flourishes for our future generations."

MacFarlane said she is excited about the establishment of a joint committee.

She said education was a huge component of the initiative and the committee would determine what that would look like and at what grade level it should start.

According to MacFarlane, the legislation and associated language revitalization are an important part of truth and reconciliation. 

Nova Scotia was not just recognizing the language, she said, the province was making sure it was promoted with the Mi'kmaw taking the lead. 

MacFarlane said she was "honoured and privileged" to be part of legislation that will "go down in history."

Sunday's ceremony comes as the Potlotek First Nation prepares to host the 2022 Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Summer Games and Nova Scotia begins the countdown to hosting the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) 2023