Shane Snook said his drive to learn the Mi’kmaw language comes from a desire to teach and pass it on to others.
Snook was one of about 100 people who recently completed a five-day Mi’kmaw Language Camp in Flat Bay that was taught by Curtis Michael of the Sipekne’kati First Nation in Nova Scotia.
Snook (Wandering White Wolf), who lives in Flat Bay but works seasonally during the winter in Alberta as a heat treatment technician, took an interest in learning his native language a few years ago.
He’s a member in several language groups on Facebook and in addition to the camp he has been taking classes on a weekly basis. His daughter, seven-year-old Toni Snook (Little White Fox), is also involved in learning the Mi’kmaw language.
“Trying to share the language with my daughter has been a good way to learn. It’s been helpful for both of us, right from remembering my colours from playing I Spy,” he said.
Snook had high praise for Michael, saying it was clear he was experienced and he had excellent teaching techniques. He said Michael acted out the words rather than spending time writing out stuff and those techniques work.
“I wish I could have had teachers like that in high school,” he said.
Snook said having other people in the community involved in these weekly classes is great, as the more exposure the greater the opportunity to learn.
The 28-year-old said there is a cultural revival taking place and it’s become clearer than ever before the unprecedented opportunity the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band has for growth.
“In so many other places in Canada discrimination still exists, but it’s almost negligible here. People here are not afraid to go out and say they’re Mi’kmaq, they’re open and don’t have anything to hide,” Snook said.
The camp had participants from ages two and up, with the adults doing their studies at the Flat Bay Community Centre and the children at the Flat Bay Indian Band building.
The camp was funded by the Aboriginal People’s Program and sponsored by the Mi’kmaq Burial Grounds Research and Restoration Association of Nova Scotia.
Last year Delina Petit Pas of St. George’s lined up the financing and held a similar camp in St. George’s and this year she once again got the financing and brought it to Flat Bay, where there is also a nine-month weekly class taking place.
The camp and the weekly classes bring the skills together for participants.
Petit Pas said after living away for a number of years, she returned to St. George’s five years ago and has devoted her life to bringing back the language and culture of the Mi’kmaq people.
“I encourage you (participants) to speak Mi’kmaw, even if it’s only a few words a day,” she said.
At the closing ceremonies for the camp, Kal’olin Sheppard was presented a standard by Chief Liz LaSaga as grandmother of the language in the community.