9 P.E.I. communities to have new signs in Mi'kmaq language
'It's really important to revitalize the Mi’kmaq language, because it is close to extinction’
Nine communities across P.E.I. will soon have heritage signage in a language that may be unfamiliar to many: Mi'kmaq.
The signs are an Aboriginal Awareness Week initiative by L'nuey, a group with a mandate to preserve, protect and implement the rights of the Island's Mi'kmaq people, who have been living on P.E.I. for an estimated 10,000 years or more.
Executive Director Jenene Wooldridge says the signs are an opportunity to promote the Mi'kmaq language and the province's shared history.
"Language is really the core of any culture and it's really important to revitalize the Mi'kmaq language, because it is close to extinction," said Wooldridge.
"The amount of Mi'kmaq language that is being spoken in the community is quite minimal because of some events that have taken place in the past, like the residential schools and the Sixties Scoop."
The signs have been installed in:
- Nemtaqaq (North River).
- Amasisipukwek (Grand River).
- Unikansuk (Portage).
- Pastue'kati (Borden).
- Telisipk (Crapaud).
- Tlaqatik (Tracadie).
- Mta'qanejk (Tignish River).
- Kwesoqamkiaq (Panmure Island).
- Wokwisewey Sipu (Fox River).
'We're all learning the language together'
The Mi'kmaq place names were collected over the course of a two-year project in the early 2000s. Researchers reviewed books, maps and documents, both historical and modern.
They also gathered oral histories from the Island's Indigenous, Irish and Acadian people, which resulted in the collection of more than 200 Mi'kmaq place names.
Wooldridge said the names were then shared with a Mi'kmaq linguist, with elders reviewing and translating.
"I think you can find Mi'kmaq language in our office space, in our homes, but I would love to see more of our Mi'kmaq language incorporated in our local businesses and our communities across P.E.I. so that we're all learning the language together," she said.
"We feel that it's a shared duty between ourselves and the government to help us revitalize our language."
Sign of reconciliation
The project is a partnership between L'nuey and the provincial government, which produced the signage.
"The signs are planned to be up for Aboriginal Awareness Week but I think it would be an excellent sign of reconciliation to have the signs up year-round for Islanders and visitors to see and to learn about the shared P.E.I. history," Wooldridge said.
"The Mi'kmaq were the first to come to P.E.I. and that's vital in the whole history of the Island."
Wooldridge said the place names have also been integrated in school curriculum across the province with great success.
"I have found that children across P.E.I. have been extremely receptive," she said. "Children are very open to learning about other cultures and they are very interested in knowing more."
Aboriginal Awareness Week runs May 19-22.