Children learn the Mi’kmaq language at Esgenoôpetitj’s first immersion camp in New Brunswick

Ten Esgenoôpetitj First Nation children spent the week learning Mi’kmaq as part of the community’s first immersion summer camp.

Twelve-year-old Eldon Taylor is already hoping for another camp next summer.

“I learned a lot of things like my language, my mother tongue, I learned about my culture, I learned so many things,” he said on Friday.

He said his mother was very happy when he told her “Kesalul,” which translates to “I love you.”

“She’s really excited when I say that because I’ve never spoken to her in Mi’kmaq before,” he said.

Siblings Xander and Samoqon Perley enjoyed making moose skin drums and rattles during camp while they learned new words.

“My favorite word is kitpu, it means eagle,” said ten-year-old Xander.

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Lead teacher Karen Somerville said she enjoyed seeing the children’s enthusiasm for learning the language.

“I see it and they are so eager! They are so proud that they actually did something that stems from history and their ancestor had practiced the same thing,” she said.

“Once a child starts hearing it, they start responding to it quite naturally, and it’s so beautiful to see that. When we see our kids speaking it, they are shy, the sound can be harsh at times, but they can integrate it into their vocabulary and use the language correctly, so yes, I’m very happy.”

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Project coordinator Candida Nickerson said the goal is to teach the children the language while they participate in traditional activities like drum building and kayaking.

“Our language is a really descriptive language, so while we were creating our drums, our rattles, our movements (Somervilles), we explained to them what it means and the definition of the word and the phrase, to hopefully help them to remember. Because it is the action that they will associate with the word.”

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She said that although most children have had exposure to the language either through their parents or through their education at the Esgenoôpetitj school, this is a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in it and interact with other speakers.

While Nickerson’s parents spoke Mi’kmaq, she grew up speaking mostly English. She said teaching the language helps her learn at the same time.

“The language is in me. It’s in my DNA. It’s part of me, I was born with it. It only sleeps. So what I’m doing right now is waking it up. So I’m waking it up through this revival committee, through these camps, and I’m hoping to encourage that with all our kids, we need to be waking it up.

She hopes to secure funding to make this an annual event. While she’s hoping it will work out, young Eldon Taylor is ready to step in if needed.

“If there’s no funding, I want to start GoFundMe and keep going,” he said.

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. Children learn the Mi’kmaq language at Esgenoôpetitj’s first immersion camp in New Brunswick


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