Growing up as a descendant of the Indian Residential School system, (my grandmother Migitjo Sarah Simon (formally Francis) 90, is a survivor) – I often felt curious about my native culture and wish I had more to taste. Migitjo, along with many others, lost her talk. It was hate that took her native language away, but it was love that brought it back. My Migi married William John Simon Sr. of Elsipogtog NB and he retaught her to be fluent Mi’kmaq again. They had 19 children who also grew up speaking Mi’kmaq.
I’ve observed that it is my generation, which has started to really lose the language. Myself included. Growing up we kept hearing that our language is dying. I often felt helpless about this. One day I had an idea, how cool would it be to be able to type in #SpeakMikmaq on Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Instagram & Facebook to be able to learn and share more words and phrases?! So I created it! I started sharing videos and using a hashtag (which helps keep them bundled together). The #SpeakMikmaq hashtag is open for anyone to use, you don’t have to be Mi’kmaq to participate! That’s the joy of the World Wide Web. The possibilities are endless.
More than a language movement the #SpeakMikmaq has brought so many wonderful souls into my life. There have been so many positive and powerful connections made. Someone who started out as customer from Norway, feeling lost and disconnected from her roots – I now have a close friend who has moved back to Newfoundland to get in touch with her L’nu roots and has also found her Mi’kmaq soul mate. Such a miracle!
I had the experience to help share the Mi’kmaq language alongside teachers Curtis Michael, Andie Meuse and Bernie Francis in the Mi’kmaq communities of Newfoundland. It was there that I had the honour to meet a beautiful woman named Tami, who also has a passionate heart to help her people and keep the culture alive. The hashtag #SpeakMikmaq creates bonds that will last a lifetime.
Before the #SpeakMikmaq movement, I often felt alone in being Mi’kmaq and now there are many friendships being created. I have many customers all over the world that I cherish dearly. They rock out in the L’nui’si, it’s that easy! #SpeakMikmaq clothing line. They wear it with so much pride. To know that our tribe can represent love and positivity means a lot. Because there have been many times where many of us don’t feel love and positivity coming from our own community members. There are times where we can feel defeated about trying to tap into our roots and language. There are bullies and lateral violence in every community. Being Mi’kmaq isn’t a competition. Ancient native teachings share that no one is better or less than anyone else, that’s why we sit in a circle – we equally matter. Many teachings that we carry stem from our grandparents and elder friends. So when someone puts down your talk, or your cultural teachings, they are also putting down the grandmothers, grandfathers and ancestors of that human being.
We can’t control anyone else’s actions, vibes or atmosphere, but we can control our own. And for #SpeakMikmaq or any of the works that I do, I have a motto of “positive vibes only”. The world has enough critics – we need more encouragers! I highly enjoy giving out love and joy through the language movement. It can be a very, very tough topic for many. There’s a lot of pain behind the language as well. I am aware of that and aim to bring joy forward to help heal the broken hearted. I’m also very protective when it comes to bullying. I’ve grown up with bullies all of my life. I suffered from depression in my adolescent years. I know what it’s like to feel stuck in the dark and if it’s in my power at all to protect others – I will. That includes removing any negativity on my social media accounts.
When I began #SpeakMikmaq, I almost quit a couple of times because the lateral violence was so heavy. And the unfortunate part is that the online “haters” were all Mi’kmaq, from my own tribe. Then I had to talk myself into continuing on, for the children. For the voiceless. For those who truly want their culture and language. And am I ever glad I didn’t give up! I also realized that where there is so much pain, there is a lot of love needed. Love heals pain. Love is so powerful. Because hurt people have a tendency to hurt people, I decided to keep going and to forgive those who’ve hurt me and to instead pray for them.
Taking the MIKM2701 course has really been a dream come true for someone like me. Someone who grew up as a descendant of Indian Residential School, who didn’t grow up going to pow-wows, sweats or doing many cultural activities. Someone like me who is so hungry for my cultural roots, language and to have a better understanding of self. Having this opportunity of free online learning being open to everyone who is interested – is truly a gift! One of the best gifts ever!
The real truth is many of us of all ages don’t have these kinds of opportunities to learn culture, history and language from our precious elders. So for Stephen Augustine to be so kind, genuine, humorous and giving with his teachings – truly, truly means a LOT to many of us students! It brings a sense of home to my heart while I’m learning from the city of Halifax, NS. There are many battles that many of us face in life, but it is courses like this one that truly lift us up and inspire us. There are connections to be made with the 12,000+ online learners. Through the facebook group, I’ve made a new indigenous author friend from New Zealand and we have already been practicing our native ways and trading and bartering our goods through the mail! How amazing is that?!
If there’s one thing that I can leave you with, is that if you are brand new to the culture, or trying to find your way within your roots, or whatever the case may be- I want to remind you to be gentle with yourself. It can get overwhelming at times, but remember to rejoice in the small victories. Learned a new word? GREAT! Give yourself a pat on the back. That’s an accomplishment! Also, don’t let anyone steer you away from your dreams. There will always be many who may try to shake you and make you fall off track. It has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with them and where they’re at on their journey. Happy people don’t bully people. So don’t be discouraged. There’s a lot to learn, but there’s a lot of incredible people in this new circle of learning Mi’kmaq culture too. Let’s remember to respect one another, for we are all walking with our ancestors of many generations. Let’s remember not to accuse each other of who is “right” or “wrong” when sharing our culture and language. The more we can listen with open hearts, even if it wasn’t how we grew up – the stronger our tribe gets.
Wishing you all the best, laughter and joy on this new learning journey. This is an EXCITING time in our lives! History in the making. Major thanks to Ashlee and Stephen for making this all possible for all of us.