Pilick community school changes name to honour elders' vision
Chief Gabby Atwin says Wolastoqey now official language of community
A Wolastoqey community in New Brunswick unveiled the new name of its kindergarten to Grade 6 school on Wednesday as it takes a more holistic approach to education.
Wulastukw Elementary School in Pilick, Kingsclear First Nation, about 13 kilometres west of Fredericton, is now Wulastukw Wolokehkitimok. Wolokehkitimok translates to "a place of holistic learning."
Elder Imelda Perley (Opolahsuwehs) said the late Pilick elders Veronica Atwin and Charles Solomon were instrumental in keeping ceremony and language alive in the community and it's their vision of a holistic school that inspired the new name.
"Both of them are champions," said Perley, whose work in Wolastoqey language spans decades.
She said Solomon was a medicine man and helped her learn vital teachings about muskrat root and Atwin was one of the first Wolastoqew language teachers she could remember. Atwin created her own dictionaries without any formal linguistic training.
The school is incorporating language, culture, land-based teachings and Wolastoqey ways of knowing.
"We're learning about us, we're learning for us, we're learning how to maintain our language and everything within our language," said Perley.
Principal Ramona Solomon, a granddaughter of Charles Solomon, said it's important the school serves as a safe place for students to learn.
"It's been ingrained in us to be ashamed of who we are and they don't have to," said Solomon.
Jesse Simon, the First Nation's director of education, said this year they launched a Montessori style of education, where students can learn at their own pace. He said they have their own measurements of success and at the centre is meeting the children's needs.
"The model itself is built for developing the wellbeing of the child so they will be able to overcome these challenges once they leave this community," said Simon.
He said they have a three-year plan for this approach which will include literacy and numeracy measurements.
Simon said they're developing plans to create more language nests in the community because language is vital for the health of the children. He said he wants to see early childhood and adult immersion classes someday.
As the school's new name was unveiled, Chief Gabby Atwin announced the community's official language is now Wolastoqey.
"We have to bring our language back to our community," said Atwin.
Atwin said he was proud to see Wolastoqey youth speaking the language.
with files from Shane Fowler