PEI

Lennox Island First Nation puts new names to a vote aimed at revitalizing Mi'kmaq language

The Lennox Island First Nation may soon be called by a new name in an effort to help revitalize the Mi'kmaq language, says the First Nation's Chief Darlene Bernard. 

'What it does is move our language up to a prominent place'

Community members can choose to adopt the Mi'kmaq names for either the Lennox Island Channel or Malpeque Bay, or remain known as the Lennox Island First Nation. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

Lennox Island First Nation may soon be called by a new name in an effort to help revitalize the Mi'kmaq language, says Chief Darlene Bernard. 

The Mi'kmaq people have been living on Prince Edward Island for an estimated 10,000 years — or more.

The community on Lennox Island has been presented with three options to choose from, which have been put to a band vote. 

Community members can choose to adopt the Mi'kmaq names for either the Lennox Island Channel or Malpeque Bay, or remain known as the Lennox Island First Nation.

"We believe that this action is a concrete action in keeping with the work, and the goals, and strong aspirations of the First Nations to revitalize and lift up our language," Bernard said.

'Where we come from as a people'

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.

'We believe that this action is a concrete action in keeping with the work, and the goals, and strong aspirations of the First Nations to revitalize and lift up our language,' Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard says. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"We put forward ... Kikji-Sipukwek, and it means: The place where it stretches out and follows close and near to the shore," Bernard said. "The Mi'kmaq name for the Lennox channel." 

Generally, she said, Mi'kmaq names reflect the water because "water is the essence of life and it gives all life, so the Mi'kmaq people always lived close to water." 

"Then there is Malpeque Bay, and in our language we call it Malpek … but it's like shallow water … it's all about like where we are, where we come from as a people," Bernard said. 

I'm looking to the people to guide the way as we move forward in revitalizing our language one important word at a time.— Chief Darlene Bernard, Lennox Island First Nation

"But it's not my choice to make, the leadership is interested in hearing from all our members wherever they are." 

Voting on the potential change has been ongoing for a week and ends Friday evening. The results of the vote are expected to be unveiled Sunday.

So far, she said it's been a mixed bag of feedback, with people expressing support for all three options. 

"It doesn't change our address, it doesn't change the name of our Island, what it does is move our language up to a prominent place in what we call ourselves, and what we call our First Nation," she said.

"I'm looking to the people to guide the way as we move forward in revitalizing our language one important word at a time." 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

now