Mi'kmaq language to be taught in 2 more P.E.I. schools

Some Aboriginal students in P.E.I. will soon be able to study the Mi'kmaq language and culture in public schools.

Some Aboriginal students on P.E.I. will soon be able to study the Mi'kmaq language and culture in public schools.

The Island First Nations community will get an opportunity to help promote a language that is almost disappearing on the island.

The children are taking advantage of their summer camp to improve their knowledge of the Mi'kmaq language.

Up until now, students at John J. Sark Memorial School on Lennox Island were the only P.E.I. students to get Mi'kmaq language training — which ends at Grade 6.

But in September, two other schools will start offering courses.

Hernewood Intermediate and Mount Stewart Consolidated will both have classes for Grade 7 in Mi'kmaq language and culture.

If it goes well, they'll add other grades.

"What we're doing is to respond to a First Nation priority which has been long standing with them. They understand that language is really part of their culture and really speaks to their identity," said Darrell DesRouches, an Aboriginal and diversity education specialist with the Department of Education.

The province's decision to offer the classes within the English school boards is going over well on Lennox Island.

It means students can continue to learn Mi'kmaq once they move on to Grade 7, off reserve.

"I don't want to drop my culture once I move to a different school. I want to keep it and then take it on a next step," said Destiny-Lynn Myers, a Grade 6 student.

"My stepfather ... he knows how to speak few words in Mi'kmaq so then when we come home sometimes we just say few words and he tries to guess what we say," said Briana-Lee Ballem, another Grade 6 student.

Most likely, parents and grandparents of these children were not allowed to speak their own language when they were in school.

"We do have a long way to regain the grounds but I'm sure that eventually, if it's kept on the right track within the curriculum, that it would be brought back," said Anthony Mitchell, a Lennox Island resident.

Many in the Lennox Island community feel that once these kids better understand the language they'll have a stronger appreciation and connection with the Mi'kmaq culture.