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Annual Report

Celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages

UNESCO declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre at UNB Fredericton marked the occasion with a number of events.

Indigenous Language Gathering Celebration

The first Indigenous Language Gathering Celebration: Nikana’tunej (carrying language forward) / Namkomihptune ‘Ciw Weckuwapasihtit (carrying language forward for the ones not yet born) was hosted by the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre in April.

The gathering honoured language teachers, learners and language carriers throughout the course of the three-day gathering. The focus was on Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqey language revival, through language learning activities, language revival presentations, as well as celebration of language through song, dance, stories and more.

The gathering was opened by a celebration performance by iconic singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Richard J. CURRIE CENTER. UNB’s then-elder-in-residence Opolahsomuwehs (Imelda Perley) and St. Mary’s First Nation Sakom (Chief) Allan Polchies Jr. led an opening ceremony.

In lieu of registration fees, donations of food for Greener Village were collected at the Buffy Sainte-Marie concert and each day of the Language Gathering.

5th UNB Powwow

Nikana’tunej (carrying language forward) / Namkomihptune ‘Ciw Weckuwapasihtit (carrying language forward for the ones not yet born) was also the theme at the 5th UNB Powwow, hosted at the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre in April.

The UNB Powwow celebrated the language revival of Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey and Passamaquoddy languages. Traditional songs and dances at the powwow provided an opportunity to honour ancestors and the language that they have passed on to succeeding generations.

"We must do everything we can to continue to use and share our Indigenous languages,” said Starlit Simon, UNB Powwow coordinator. “Our languages are so sacred and so intertwined with every aspect of the way we lived and our world view.

“Our languages connect us to who we were, where we come from and to our ancestors who fought and struggled so bravely through the history of this country. It's our time now to carry that torch, see that it stays lit, and guide our young people to use our languages as often as possible. As a result, pride, strength and self-esteem will be restored."

The Muskrat singers served as the host drum group, along with Wabanaki Confederacy as the cohost drum group. This year’s guest drum groups were Spirit Bear and Hey Cuzzins. Head male and female dancers were Logen Lewis and Tiffany Plain, with junior head dancers Wambli Martinez and Stevie Polchies.

Federal funding secured for Indigenous language work

The Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre has received more than $74,000 from the federal Aboriginal Languages Initiative for its Wolastoqey Latuwewaken Revival program.

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, then-Minister of Indigenous Services, announced the funding at the UNB Fredericton campus in July this year. The funding is part of $4.1 million the Government of Canada plans to invest over two years in 36 projects relating to Indigenous language preservation and revival.

The projects are community-based and will support the promotion and preservation of the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey Passamaquoddy and Innu-Aimun languages. They include languages camps, mentor-apprentice programs and immersion programs in the Atlantic provinces. Many involve the production and distribution of language resources and educational materials.

"We've heard from fluent speakers that our ancestral languages contain our identity, worldview, and knowledge,” said Amanda Reid, UNB Piluwitahasuwin. “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes that access to our languages is an inherent right. This federal funding is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to the bold commitments that are needed for Indigenous language preservation, revitalization, and transmission in ways that support immersion."

“The Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre and all of the projects being funded through the federal Aboriginal Languages Initiative are doing vital work to preserve and teach Indigenous languages around the country. Their efforts will ensure these languages are not only kept alive, but grow in reach and use across Canada,” said Dr. Paul Mazerolle, UNB president and vice-chancellor.

“Language is essential to Indigenous peoples’ identity and culture. That is why our government is committed to taking action to help preserve, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages. Together with Indigenous partners, we are ensuring that Indigenous languages can flourish across the country,” said the Honourable Pablo Rodríguez, then-Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.

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