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Associated Alumni

Celebrating language carriers: Gwen Bear Memorial Lecture features young local authors

(Weyossiok authors Amber Solomon, Brooke Sacobie and Theo Polchies)

UNB’s Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre (MWC) held its fourth annual Gwen Bear Memorial Lecture in January.

Gwen Bear, UNB’s first elder-in-residence, was an avid speaker, and language and culture teacher. One of her great ambitions was to see more youth speaking the Wolastoqey language. Previous lectures have featured speakers and former students whose lives were significantly influenced by Elder Bear. This year, the lecture featured four young language carriers from Kingsclear First Nation, who shared their experiences of authoring and illustrating Weyossisok, a storybook written in the Wolastoqey language. Brooke Sacobie, Theo Polchies, Amber Solomon and Baillie Sacobie along with their former middle school teacher, Megan Young-Jones (MEd’15) began working on the book in 2013 as an entrepreneurial project.

“We realized there are no children’s books available in our language; we didn’t know it was going to take off like this," says Sacobie. "We just wanted to make something for our younger family members.”

The Wolastoqey (Maliseet) language is a First Nations language in Canada currently considered endangered.

“When I was growing up, 95 per cent of my community spoke the language. Today the opposite is true,” says elder-in-residence Imelda Perley. “We are so proud of them. They demonstrate a generation that is going to keep the language.”

Over 400 copies of Weyossisok have been sold. The authors have decided that all profits from the book will be donated back to the community school, Wulastukw Elementary. They want to ensure that children from Pilick on the Kingsclear First Nation, have plenty of books to read and sports equipment to use.

Back to Alumni News Direct - March 2016