Videos in the Wolastoqey language

Jeff Bear

The language I grew up speaking was called Maliseet. Recent acts of decolonization have inspired my nation's current leadership to change the name of our language to its original reference: Wolastoqey.

Our language has an oral tradition and was never written until missionaries came to our lands. The purpose of their attempt at an orthography for our language was to convert as many Maliseet souls as they could. Prayer books were created in the language, as well as an interpretation of the King James Bible.

Other attempts to turn our language into written form have been anthropologists' life work. Today we have two dictionaries that are the direct result of the linguists, Robert Leavitt and David Francis. They are based on an earlier collection of words gathered by Philip S. Le Sourd. Laszlo Szabo pioneered other language word collections.

Our work as translators of English to Maliseet stems from centuries of usage in the oral tradition. We did not write it down but translated it as we read the English Scripts I had written. I was raised by Noel and Susie Bear and we have spoken my language since I was a child. My family spoke only the Maliseet language at home and we would only speak English when we had English-speaking visitors.

My work emphasized the creation of a version of the English script. Many words, phrases and concepts would arise after extensive conversations with two people who were the heart of our Maliseet script team: Our cousin and respected Elder, Henrietta Black, 93 years young and my oldest sister, Shirley Bear, 86 years old. We would discuss words synonymous with the English version and sometimes invent new ones where needed, like in our use of technology, computer and internet slang, as one example.

Our broadcaster, the APTN, is the only Canadian broadcaster with a mandate to broadcast in Indigenous languages. Our funder has a requirement to have our websites in an Indigenous language. But they implement a reasonably flexible approach with this policy.

The videos on this page are evidence that our language is still alive and enjoying a somewhat fragile revival.

Alex Janvier

Dozay Christmas

Teresa Marshall

Alan Syliboy

Connie Watts

Jeff Bear