L’nui’sultinej (Let’s Speak Mi’kmaq)

Promoting Mi’kmaq Language Development and Education: Nova Scotia, Canada

An eleventh grade student’s presentation was the highlight of the L’nui’sultinej (Let’s Speak Mi’kmaq) conference at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The student, Karlee Johnson, had been a part of the first class of students to go through the Mi’kmaq Immersion Program in the Eskasoni School. Karlee explained, in both Mi’kmaq and English, how she learned about her language and culture by participating in the immersion program through Grade 3. As a result, she has become a more confident person and received opportunities to speak to a wider audience, even being invited to address an Assembly of First Nations gathering of chiefs from across Canada. She hopes to one day become a doctor and serve her community’s health needs.

The conference focused on the Mi’kmaq language. The Mi’kmaq team, which included Karlee and SIL advisors, joined teachers, community elders and others for the event. They shared ideas and innovations about Mi’kmaq language development, education and preservation.

At one of the workshops, new teaching resources were presented by the Mi’kmaq team. These storybooks are designed for school-age children and have accompanying workbooks that teach aspects of Mi’kmaq grammar and discourse. Mi’kmaq language teachers from schools and communities across the region were given copies of the teaching materials and learned how to use them.

During another workshop, the Mi’kmaq translation team presented two oral storytelling methods that promote speaking ability and oral comprehension of students. One technique was called “What’s in your pocket?” Storytellers used what was in their pockets or purses to help them remember how to tell a story in the Mi’kmaq language. The other technique was used to translate an English story into Mi’kmaq by drawing pictures of story scenes and using them as memory aids for retelling a story.

Other conference topics included presentations about Mi’kmaq language and curriculum development, the impact of residential schools on aboriginal peoples and online resources for Mi’kmaq language materials. An interesting resource was the “Show Me Your Math” project, which invited conference participants to observe Mi’kmaq students making canoe paddles. The project was designed to help students see how math and other school subjects are used in traditional cultural activities such as making canoe paddles and the ancient Mi’kmaq art of biting patterns in birch bark. The intent is to help connect what students are learning in school with their traditional culture and teach them to value both.