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Ten children from Esgenoôpetitj First Nation spent the week learning Mi’kmaq as part of their first immersion summer camp.
12-year-old Eldon Taylor hopes to have another camp next summer.
“I learned a lot of things, like my language and my native language, I learned about my culture, I learned a lot of things,” he said on Friday.
He said his mother was very happy when he told her “Kesalul,” which translates to “I love you.”
“She is so excited when I say that because I was not used to talking to her at Mi’kmaq,” he said.
Brothers Xander and Samoqon Perley enjoyed making moose drums and rattles while camping to learn new words.
“My favorite word is ketbu, it means eagle,” said ten-year-old Zander.
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Principal teacher Karen Somerville said that the children’s excitement about learning the language brought her so much joy.
“I see it, and they are so excited! They are so proud that they did something that comes from history and that their ancestors practiced the same thing,” she said.
“Once a child starts hearing it, they start responding to it normally and it is nice to see it. When I see our children speaking it, they are shy, the sound can sometimes be difficult but they are able to transfer it into their vocabulary and use the language correctly, so I am very happy.”
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Project coordinator Candida Nickerson said the goal was to teach the children the language while participating in traditional activities such as drum-making and kayaking.
“Our language is really descriptive language, so as we’re making our drums, our rattles, our movements,[Somerville]is explaining to them what it means and the definition of the word and the phrase hopefully will help them remember. Because that’s the action they’re going to associate with the word.”
She said that while most children had previously been exposed to the language either through their parents or through their education at Esgenoôpetitj school, this was a rare occasion to immerse themselves in it and interact with other speakers.
While Nickerson’s parents spoke Mi’kmaq, she was raised primarily speaking English. She said teaching the language helps her learn at the same time.
“The language is inside me. It’s inside my DNA. It’s a part of me, I’m born with it. It’s just dormant. So what I’m doing now is I’m getting up. So I’m getting up through this activation committee, through these camps and I hope to encourage this with all of us.” Our kids, we need to wake him up.”
She hopes to secure funding to make this an annual event. While she hopes it will work out, young Eldon Taylor is ready to step in if necessary.
“If there is no funding, I want to start GoFundMe and keep going,” he said.
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