Listuguj Visit

Hi! I’m writing to introduce myself. My name is Carolyn Anderson, and I’m a visiting student at McGill this semester. While I’m here, I’m hoping to work on some Mi’gmaq materials, as well as starting to learn the language myself.

Listuguj looking beautiful in the snow

Listuguj looking beautiful in the snow

I’m a linguistics student, but I’m also interested in technology (which is why I’m excited about this blog!). I spent last semester at University of Victoria, learning about technology projects for different indigenous languages in British Columbia.

Some highlights of my semester were getting a sneak peek at a Nxa’amxcin online dictionary that is under development, hearing about the FirstVoices online language archiving and lessons program, and attending the release party for the 2014 Report on the Status of B.C. Languages.

During my semester in B.C., I was also conducting interviews with language activists and linguists about their experiences using technology for language revitalization, something I hope to continue here on the East Coast too.

I arrived in Montreal around New Years, and the weather was quite a shock. I’m a West Coast girl (I grew up in Tacoma, WA). I considered never ever leaving my apartment again, but then Carol-Rose Little offered to take me to Listuguj with her, so I packed up all my coats and mittens and tagged along.

Me shocked by how snow it was.

Me shocked by how snow it was.

I had a wonderful time in Listuguj, and I hope I can visit again soon. I had the chance to sit in on some recording sessions for the online Mi’gmaq dictionary, which was wonderful. It was fun watching Joe and Eunice come up with new example sentences for the words.

Dinner with Language Workers from the Education Directorate

Dinner with Language Workers from the Education Directorate

I know that language revitalization is slow and often difficult work. But in my travels across Canada this year, I’ve been seeing small victories everywhere. Whether it’s new videos being posted in the Indigenous Language Challenge Facebook group, preschoolers giggling in Mi’gmaq in the hallways of the Education Directorate in Listuguj, or young people rapping in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ on the West Coast, there are indigenous language revitalization projects to celebrate all over the country.

My Vision for Listuguj

I am sure everyone knows that there is a strong importance of “preserving our language”—a phrase has been thrown around so much lately that it’s starting to lose its true meaning. I have wondered if non-speakers actually know that our language represents everything about native people’s ways: nature and land, spiritual ways, and even jokes and humor. It is embedded within the language that Mi’gmaq people have been doers, and our language is the life-force of our culture. Mi’gmag speakers have a totally different worldview than non-speakers, and as an indigenous person, wouldn’t you want an authentic worldview? Many may not understand how important it is to lose that part of your central identity and it’s so unfortunate to see so many of our people not taking action.

It only took that one generation, the parents who did not teach their children the language, to create the struggle we are in right now. It is our responsibility to start “preserving our language” rather than just acknowledging the fact that the issue exists. I understand it is difficult to learn a new language but it is not impossible, especially with all the resources out there. I have actually met people who learned our language within a month, and have held conversations with fluent speakers. This gives me hope for our own people.

My vision for Listuguj is for our people to seek identity through language and to share this aspiration with the future leaders of the community. We need to start doing things as a community to revive the sense of unique individuality as Mi’gmaw people. For example, I would essentially love to see a language camp developed –taking some of our kids to learn every aspect of their culture where the Mi’gmaw language spoken at all times. The central thesis would be to seek truth through learning the language along with learning about our peoples’ inherent connectedness with nature. When dealing with these future leaders, I understand the struggle in being divided between wanting acceptance from peers and being authentic to who you are. It is inevitable as an Indigenous person to encounter those who view us as a stereotypical drunk, poor, lazy Indian. Today, I can already see the kids in school who are lacking confidence in where they come from. These are the children that are going to fall into the stereotype or rise above it. My goal would be to spark the minds of the participants who will change their perspective on being Indigenous—inspire them to tackle this important issue of our diminishing language that our community has been burdened with. I want to change the minds of young kids, instead of them taking on the ways of the people who are essentially rejecting them, to thoroughly accept themselves for who they are as Indigenous Peoples.

Of course, the list is endless with what we can achieve. But I have faith that in the years to come, Listuguj will change perspectives in how choices are made for the community and to thrive in what is rightfully ours—a Mi’gmaw speaking community.

“Many Mi’kmaq argue that their language is their culture, the loss of which would be devastating. Not only does the language continue to be vital to the culture, it is beautiful and filled with profundity.” ~ Bernie Francis & Trudy Sable.

Indspire Guiding the Journey Award Recipient: Janice Vicaire.

My siblings and I were taught to expand our minds through knowledge and to always take advantage of educating ourselves. The benefits of education were often praised in my family because my mother, Janice, realized how important it would be for our future. She would often say, “No one can take your education away from you”. Along with her emphasis in investing in our education, she stressed the importance of being a Mi’gmaw speaker. Our family stood out because we had a household of Mi’gmaw speakers and most families in Listuguj spoke English. We are aware that our language makes us a close-knit family because we share something that not many families in Listuguj have. This kind of compassion for language is evident in her work, which brings forth an awareness to preserve our rapidly disappearing language.

More recently, the community of Listuguj has been motivated to reconnect with the Mi’gmaw language. Though many people in the community are familiar with my mother, her contributions to language often go unnoticed. She works full time as a Nursery Mi’gmaw Immersion teacher with a goal of making Mi’gmaq a part of these children’s everyday lives. She incorporates other aspects of the Mi’gmaw culture in unique ways that stimulate the children’s minds, making them eager to learn. In addition to her work as an educator, she is often asked to translate various projects into Mi’gmaw. For example, in the past she has contributed to translations of a Ph.D dissertation, a Mi’gmaq/English dictionary, scripts and community journals. Occasionally, she also co-teaches Mi’gmaw Language classes with her sister Mary Ann for community members and has assisted in teaching a Mi’gmaw Language course for Cape Breton University.

A group of colleagues at the Listuguj Education Directorate came across the Indspire Educator Awards that had a category suitable for my mother’s nomination—Language, Culture and Traditions. The award was created for an indigenous educator who made a vital contribution to his/her community by inspiring people through education. Her colleagues saw this as an opportunity to enlighten her accomplishments and decided to construct a nomination package. The nomination package also included letters of support from community members who had been moved by her efforts.

My mother’s impeccable knowledge in the Mi’gmaw Language, her diligence as an educator and her willingness to help others is inspiring to many. The passion she radiates for educating the people of Listuguj, and the energy she spends in language revitalization, is key to cultural awareness. Her fundamental contribution to the Mi’gmaw Language is the reason why she had been chosen to receive the Indspire Educator’s Award. Knowing that she is a humbled woman, we are thrilled that she finally has been acknowledged in a way that she deserves.

Wellugwen aq Wela’lieg!
Congratulations and Thank You!


Janice and her Granddaughter Mila
Photographer: Marsha Vicaire. 

Douglas Gordon featured in McGill Reporter “Notes from the Field”

Douglas Gordon, who spent his first summer in Listuguj last summer, has published a piece in the McGill Reporter’s “Notes from the Field”. Douglas writes about his experiences in Listuguj and the efforts of the Mi’gmaq language revitalization project ongoing there. View his story here.

“Notes from the Field” features posts by McGill students and professors who have done fieldwork and research across the world.

the Language Workshop and where we are now

Last Tuesday, close to ninety people gathered in the Listuguj Bingo Hall to hear guest speakers, explore various booths and discuss the Mi’gmaq language. Many people put in a lot of effort into making the language workshop what it was and it was a great success. When speaking to the crowd, both Starr Paul and Diane Mitchell were able to convey a great sense of urgency about the fate of the Mi’gmaq language while at the same time gently welcoming new speakers to try, fail and try again, knowing that a language is not saved in a day. 


Miss Faye, Victoria Labillois and Sheila Swasson along with last year’s Mi’gmaq Immersion nursery kids. by Lola Vicaire

Similarly Conor Quinn, with an understanding of all the difficulty and embarrassment that can come with learning a new language (speaking several himself), offered from his booth tangible and specific advice on how to overcome these obstacles and embrace learning Mi’gmaq. 


Diane Mitchell and Houston Barnaby hashing out some details. by Lola Vicaire

Yet, while all the organized booths and activities were wonderful to see, it seems to me that the greatest success of the day was the simple fact that so many people were able to come together to think about and discuss (and speak!) Mi’gmaq. In any case of language revitalization, the efforts of individuals can only do so much. The real burden of work is on community members, both for speakers to teach the language and nurture its use and for learners to set aside time and take on the truly enormous task that is learning a language. What I saw on Tuesday was people from both camps thinking hard about their roles, scrapping old, tired ideas and replacing them with new, inventive ones. Nothing was solved for certain, nor could it have been, but when individuals come together to let each other know that they care deeply about an issue, that is what makes a community and a community is what makes change.   

Countdown: 5 days until Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop 2

With the second Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop  right around the corner, we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone how fun the first workshop was last year!


Photo by Janine Metallic.

 Highlight #1: At our first workshop we had two guest speakers from different Mi’gmaq communities—Bernard Jerome from Gesgapegiag and Jaime Battiste from Eskasoni. The speakers related their personal experiences with the language, and how speaking Mi’gmaq has influenced their life. Many students and Elders were happy to see the speeches given half in Mi’gmaq and half in English. Travis Wysote noted, “The speakers were eloquent, a natural occurrence when our People speak from their hearts.”

Highlight #2: The goal of the workshop was not only to inform community members about resources available for Mi’gmaq language-learning, but to foster dialogue between Elders and young language learners. In the second half of our workshop, the audience formed groups for discussion and talked about the state of the language in the community. Afterwards, students were asked to briefly summarize what was discussed in their group.

Students and Elders talking about the language.

Students and Elders talking about the language. Photo by Janine Metallic.

Mary-Beth Wysote wrote,

“The part that I enjoyed the most was the discussions. I loved hearing what the elders in my group had to say. […]  I realized after hearing what the elders had to say in our discussion group was that they regret not passing on the language and are genuinely afraid that the language will someday soon be lost. They also thought that the youth are not interested in learning Mi’gmaq which I can imagine discouraged them a bit. I don’t think I would have ever known how the elders felt towards the language had I not attended this workshop and they would not have known how us youth felt. The assumptions that we had about each other were wrong”

Highlight #3: Fun booths about a variety of topics were set up around the venue.

“The booths were interesting and ranged from more formal ones to informal ones and the information they shared was of critical importance with regards to language retention and language revitalization. Perhaps this was why the discussions were so lively.” (Travis Wysote)

We hope you can make it to this year’s workshop! Help us make language learning fun; bring your kids, your family, your pets!


Everyone having fun! Photo by Janine Metallic.

Tliultesgultesnen Bingo Hall—‘we will all meet at the Bingo Hall’


Updates from the Partnership: Workshop, Instagram Contest, Quizlet & More!

The Second Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop is being held Tuesday August 5, beginning at the Listuguj Bingo Hall. Guest speakers Starr Paul of Eskasoni and Diane Mitchell of Listuguj will speak on the importance of learning the Mi’gmaq language and programs that help support language learning. The theme of the workshop is learning language through social media. There will be fun cultural booths set up around the workshop that include basket-making, language learning resources and replicas of Mi’gmaq language classrooms. Breakfast and lunch is provided. All events are free. This workshop would not be possible without the organizing committee of the high school graduate and post secondary students attending Mi’gmaq classes.
Win an iPod sScreenshot 2014-07-29 13.26.04huffle by posting a video of you speaking Mi’gmaq on instagram with the hashtag #migmaqcontest or post the video to the Listuguj Mi’gmaw Language Club on Facebook.
Only 3 weeks in and already 27 sets and 258 words and phrases ready to be studied have been created in Quizlet, the flashcard app and website! Mary Ann Metallic has been adding words after each class that coincide the content she teaches in the class. Community members from around Listuguj have lent their voices to record terms and phrases to help you learn Mi’gmaq. We welcome any community members to volunteer to record a set! Contact the Education Directorate to record.Screenshot 2014-07-29 13.33.51
See whose voices you recognize already!
Voices on there are Lola Vicaire, River Ajig, Vicky Metallic, Joyce Barnaby, Mary Ann Metallic, Janice Vicaire, Joe Wilmot, Donna Lexi Metallic and many more!
Daily dose of Mi’gmaq words with #migmaqwordoftheday on the LearnMigmaq twitter.
Douglas, Silver, Joe and Diane have been working to reorganize and continue to develop content on CAN 8. This includes a more interactive user interface with more ways to test and improve knowledge of Mi’gmaq. This places an emphasis on showing rather than telling users patterns in the language.

Learn Mi’gmaq with Quizlet!

With Mary Ann Metallic’s Mi’gmaq classes (high school graduate and post-graduate) in full swing, there’s been a lot of interest in reinforcing the material introduced in class outside of class time. With suggestions from the students in mind, we found Quizlet—an accessible and easy to use app that allows us to create flashcards that can be used by anyone (and everyone!) interested in learning Mi’gmaq.

The flashcards are posted after every class, which means that if you are not in Listuguj, you can still follow along and learn what we are learning! Thus far 21 sets about various topics, ranging from greetings to food, have been posted here.

Some great features of Quizlet include:

  • Compatibility with Android, iOS, and most web browsers
  • Ability to access offline (after pre-loading the sets)
  • Ability to import media–Mary Ann hand-picks the pictures that go along with each flashcard
  • Ability to record audio to hear what the words sound like in Mi’gmaq–in fact, we’ve been recording the flashcard sets with different voices from around the community, so the students can hear what different speakers sound like (and even some of the students are involved!)
  • Ability to test yourself in fun ways (matching, spelling, multiple choice, space race) and compete with others for a high score
  • Make your own flashcards–once you have a Quizlet account, you can either search for flashcard sets that are already made, or create your own
  • Great teacher function: Quizlet can generate quizzes from a set of flashcards and, depending on your preferences, can create multiple choice, matching, true false and written questions

Check out the “Learn Mi’gmaq Flashcards” tab at the top of our page and see how fun it is for yourself!

What do Beyoncé and Buzzfeed have in common with the Mi’gmaq language? Read on!

Summer 2014, the McGill students are back. Yuliya, McGill PhD Candiate, and Carol Rose, beginning her doctoral studies at Cornell University in the fall, will both be traveling to Listuguj for their second and third summers, respectively. Douglas Gordon, an undergraduate in the linguistics department, will also be joining them after having been awarded the McGill Arts Scholarship.

The team plans to continue projects like the wiki, language-learning software, and research.

New possibilities for summer 2014 are the following:

  • Twitter word of the day
  • Instagram/vine video of the day featuring a conversation or vocabulary word in Mi’gmaq
  • A new web site, separate from the linguistic-y one, devoted to Mi’gmaq learning resources
  • Buzzfeed-esque top 10 lists (e.g. top 10 essential words in Mi’gmaq, five ways to say hello)
  • Weekly language club
  • Surveys posted around in visible places of students learning Mi’gmaq similar to the survey posted below for AMEX by Beyoncé (except “why I learn Mi’gmaq” rather than “my card..”)

Surveys for students of Mi’gmaq, but less AMEX-y and more language-y

Please comment with thoughts about this below. All input is greatly appreciated!

Blog #1: Confessions of a Mi’gmaq Language Learner — Travis Wysote

By now most of my family, friends, and acquaintances are familiar with my views based on the things I write. I go on and on (and on and on) about the importance of maintaining environmental integrity in order to preserve our language and culture. And while environmental integrity is still a serious concern of mine, I wish to bring shift my attention towards language and culture.

 We Mi’gmaq have been resisting colonial encroachment for centuries. We have fought colonialism and assimilation into the Canadian body politic. We have fought and continue to fight the exploitation of our lands and resources – speaking up on behalf of all our relations. While the fight against these forces has many battlegrounds, such as the forests, the waters, social media and the courts, the fight to preserve language is within: within our Nation, within our communities, within our families, and within ourselves. If the integrity of our territory is diminished, our language and culture are diminished with it. I have always asserted this. But the inverse has recently been brought to my attention: without Mi’gmaq language informing our values, we will partake in the destruction of our own territory. Indeed, we are now beginning to see Mi’gmaq individuals and communities using their lands and waters in ways that our ancestors would find objectionable. This change in values towards the integrity of our territory is a reflection of the lasting legacy of colonialism and assimilation, only hastened by the loss of Mi’gmaq language speakers.

The result is that we Mi’gmaq must make that extra effort to keep the language and culture alive. The only thing holding us back is ourselves. And I understand if this is a touchy subject. I don’t want to put blame on anyone or make people feel shame. Quite the opposite – I want nothing more than to see Mi’gmaq who are beyond proud of who they are and what they have, can, and will accomplish.

I wish to speak to the importance of a recent accomplishment. From my perspective, the Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, was an absolute success. The speakers were eloquent, a natural occurrence when our People speak from their hearts. The food was fantastic. The booths were interesting and ranged from more formal ones to informal ones and the information they shared was of critical importance with regards to language retention and language revitalization. Perhaps this was why the discussions were so lively.

There were two things about this gathering that really caught my attention. The first was witnessing the Mi’gmaq Immersion Nursery students singing traditional songs with Pu’gwales, a local drum group. Not only are these children basically the cutest things ever, it was more than heartwarming to see them take pride in their accomplishments as the next generation of Mi’gmaq speakers. The other thing that piqued my interest was the interaction with Elders during the discussions towards the end of the workshop. I was fortunate enough to have been a moderator/note-taker for a group of roughly a dozen Mi’gmaq women.

I learned a lot about how the Elders feel about the language and how the Youth have or have not taken to it. One discussion in particular touched me on a personal level. Without sharing any names, I would like to relate what I have learned with readers. One of my relations talked about how she was confronted by her daughter one day. The daughter resentfully asked the mother why she had failed to pass her native language onto her at a young age. The mother was left speechless. It caught me off-guard to hear her say such a thing because my experience mirrors that of the mother – not the daughter.

Readers who know me may find this strange because I’m only 24 years young, but take note of what I am about to say. It is my experience, and possibly that of other Youth, that Elders sometimes resent the Youth for not already knowing the language. So we have arrived at a situation where Elders sometimes feel like the Youth resent them for not teaching them the language, while Youth sometimes feel as if the Elders resent them for not having learned the Mi’gmaq language. The level of misunderstanding between these two groups is the result of a breakdown in communication. This realization has bothered me since.

While learning the language in the most practical sense is vitally important, learning to forgive each other inter-generationally is a form of healing that I suspect will facilitate language learning and retention. All I can say is that this language workshop was a step in the right direction and it is critical as Mi’gmaq that we organize and participate in more of them. I believe that the importance of the Mi’gmaq language is the one thing we can all agree upon. And while many of us are busy becoming experts in our respective fields, we can all become experts of the Mi’gmaq language together. An “expert” is defined, by the way, as someone who has spent 10,000 hours on a subject. If you were to take a one-hour Mi’gmaq class every day for a year, it would take over 27 years to “officially” become an expert. While I love my Mi’gmaq classes, I think we can all agree that 27 years is unrealistic.

It is incumbent upon us to seek out avenues whereby we can integrate language into our daily lives. We need to take this issue to formal avenues such as Chief and Council, but also realize that the responsibility lies with us to raise the issue in informal avenues. There’s many ways to do this. Allow me to humbly suggest one. It would be great if people could just greet each other in Mi’gmaq. Those who already speak might discover other speakers and network with them, but speakers might also discover that there are people (Youth, such as myself, in particular) who are trying to learn. Learners need to hear Mi’gmaq spoken to them. They need to be prompted to listen. They need to struggle to understand. They also need to be prompted to speak. This effort can only serve to strengthen our language, our culture, and the bond we share as citizens of this paradise we call Mi’gmagi. Wela’lioq!