Mi’kmaw is Nova Scotia’s first language and legislation next spring will help preserve, revitalize, and promote it, according to an announcement by the Canadian province’s government.
“It’s the right thing to do because the language comes from this land and from the people. People are losing our language, and it’s been a long fight to keep it alive. This legislation will reinforce the importance of us and our language,” explained Elder Silipay Denny, the oldest Mi’kmaq elder in Nova Scotia, Eskasoni First Nation.
The number of people who can speak Mi’kmaw is in rapid decline and the Mi’kmaw language is at risk, so Nova Scotia’s government will start working immediately with Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, the collective voice for Mi’kmaq education, and other Mi’kmaq organizations and communities to develop legislation to support this effort.
“Language is a fundamental aspect of cultural identity, and the Mi’kmaw language reflects the culture of the First Peoples of this province,” said Karla MacFarlane, minister of L’nu affairs. “Mi’kmaw language revitalization is critical to understanding and preserving Mi’kmaw culture and supports ongoing reconciliation.”
“As a language teacher, the state of the language is constantly on my mind. In this crucial time for the Mi’kmaw language, recognizing Mi’kmaw as the first language of Nova Scotia could help to prevent the extinction of the land’s natural language, to heal the youth through the reclamation of our identities, and to ensure that the efforts of those who fought to preserve the language haven’t been in vain,” added Jasmine Ma’sl, Potlotek First Nation.
The province will support efforts by Mi’kmaw language speakers who are teaching and preserving the language in schools and communities by reinforcing the reconciliation work undertaken by the Treaty Education Nova Scotia initiative and through the collaborative development of legislation to ensure that hearing, seeing, and speaking the language becomes a normal part of life in Nova Scotia.
“The Mi’kmaw language legislation will allow for the Mi’kmaq to work in partnership with our provincial counterparts. The development of Mi’kmaw language legislation is a pivotal step in the revitalization and retention of the Mi’kmaw language. It is imperative for reconciliation that the Mi’kmaw language be seen and heard across the entire province. It is also important for society at large to see the importance of the preservation and protection of the Mi’kmaq language. This endeavor is not something our Mi’kmaq leadership can do alone, so we are very excited to begin this process together,” concluded Chief Leroy Denny, Eskasoni First Nation, chair of Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey.
There is a Mi’kmaw language app available at https://www.kinu.ca/mobile-apps.