New school, ancient speech: N.B. group hopes to teach Indigenous language to youth
FREDERICTON -- A Fredericton woman is working to reclaim her Indigenous language and pass it on to the next generation of her community.
Lisa Perley-Dutcher and a group of educators are fundraising to create a Wolastoqey language immersion school for preschoolers.
Perley-Dutcher says all fluent speakers of the language Wolastoqey are age 65 or older, but they are hoping a new immersion program will share her language with another generation before it is lost.
“Language revitalization is such important work right now, and when we talk about truth and reconciliation, that’s really the core of it,” says Perley-Dutcher.
The school would operate like a forest school, teaching outside in the Wolastoqey language.
“That’s how our ancestors taught the children, in our language, based on living on the land, in everyday life,” says Perley-Dutcher. “To me, we could have a place where it can be land based and they can explore different environments.”
For now, she’s passing on the lessons her ancestors taught her, to the children in her community.
“I was saying what is it we need for the seed to grow, and we were talking about (the Wolastoqey words for) the earth, and the sun, and the water, so all of those components are needed.”
While the school is still in the planning and fundraising stage, Perley-Dutcher says they aim to open the school to children between the ages of four and five.
“It’s going to be very family centered as well. We want to be sure that the parents are learning along with the children, so it’s not just that we’re teaching the children and they go home, and they don’t hear those words again. We’re going to set it up so the parents also get the lesson,” says Perley-Dutcher.
Organizers hope to launch their first class in September 2022.