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“Splash Mi’kmaq all over Epekwitk!”

Chief Darlene Bernard gave a powerful speech this afternoon to start the last day of the 20th annual Lennox Island First Nation mawi’omi (or pow wow). I wish I had a copy of her speech to share here, but the one theme that jumped out at me was her assertion that the Mi’kmaq language must become more widely used on Prince Edward Island if it is to survive.

Chief Bernard’s request to “splash Mi’kmaq all over Epekwitk” wasn’t just a direction to her people but to all Epekwitnewaq (residents of Epekwitk), including non-indigenous settlers like me. I suppose since non-indigenous people are the majority population on PEI, her direction was especially for us.

So, if you are a settler on Indigenous land, please consider learning and using a few words in the language of the first peoples of your region. If you own a business here on Prince Edward Island/Epekwitk, perhaps you could find a way to add Mi’kmaq to your signage or website.

If you are a PEI government official, it is time that the Mi’kmaq language is used more widely across PEI and not just in token, select settings. The Mi’kmaq people don’t have the power to change signage and usage, but you do.

It’s not difficult to start using Mi’kmaq. When we reopened our Prince County Hospital Auxiliary gift shop in the hospital lobby in June 2020 after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was asked to make some signs for the shop, including one to thank our customers. I asked if it could be in three languages – English, French and Mi’kmaq – and the other volunteers said that was fine, so this is what we installed:

At first a couple of people thought wela’lin was Chinese for thank you, and that’s understandable because this is all new. At least a few more people have seen and learned the Mi’kmaq word for thank you. Maybe it has made a few people think about why they are only seeing this word for the first time now when it should really have been everywhere forever.

This language learning is probably going to feel awkward to start. Chief Bernard said that we need to be kind to each other as we learn, that we will make mistakes, and that’s ok. The important thing is to try, and the awkwardness will eventually pass.

When elder Junior Peter-Paul gave a blessing in Mi’kmaq today, the only words I knew were wela’lin and wela’lioq (used to thank more than one person). He used them many times to thank the Creator. I know that saying wela’lioq to the Mi’kmaq people isn’t nearly enough, but it is a small start, and things can only get better from here.

Wela’lin. Thank you.

Nota bene

While looking for the postal abbreviation for the US state of Maine (it’s ME, so you don’t have to look!), I came across this chart from the United States Postal Service Historian that shows the different state abbreviations they’ve used since 1831. It wasn’t until 1963 that the USPS settled on the two letter system still in use today, and which we also use in Canada.

One interesting tidbit from that chart is this note about the abbreviation NB:

…in 1969, at the request of the Canadian postal administration, the abbreviation for Nebraska, originally NB, was changed to NE, to avoid confusion with New Brunswick in Canada.

My knowledge of Canada-US relations is not deep enough to know how often the United States has bent to our will (I suspect not often at all), but this certainly was a nice gesture.

Back to Life

It seems to be the day to visit your favourite coffee joint on PEI as Peter went to Receiver in the Big City while Steven and I visited Samuel’s in the Second City. We even nabbed the coveted table in the big corner window that has a good view up Water Street. My soy cappuccino was perfect.

Logo-a-go-go

I joined the Prince County Hospital Auxiliary in January 2019. I have been a member of the Stewart Memorial Healthcare Auxiliary since 2002, but since our hospital was converted to a long term care facility in 2014, we haven’t had as much to do and I felt I wanted support what is now our hospital.

Now I find myself the co-chair of the PCHA Wishing Well Gift Shop committee while one of our members recovers from an illness. As someone who is consciously trying to not buy anything unnecessary, being the head of a group who sell knick-knacks along with items to cheer inpatients is a peculiar place to be!

I am not going to be much hands-on assistance as I live 45 km from the hospital, and I’m probably not the person to make decisions on buying Chinese-made doodads, so I am helping with things like updating forms, making lists, and creating spreadsheets. One thing we hope to improve upon is the gift shop branding, so I went searching for logos.

I found various digital versions of our PCH Auxiliary logo, but most seemed to be ugly scans of letterhead. I asked the helpful and good natured Bevan Woodacre, PCH Foundation‘s communications officer, if he might happen to have a nice copy of our logo and I was soon gifted with the keys to the Dropbox kingdom! He had been collecting these for some time, and I’m so grateful to him for that foresight.

Ahhhh…so smooth, so nice!

The Wishing Well Gift Shop itself never seemed to have any branding except for the sign above the door. A label on the sign directed me to Marie Ford at the Sign Station in Summerside. I showed her a photo of the sign and asked her if she might still have our artwork. She cheerfully said she would have a look (and the database search took quite a while as they would probably have hundreds of thousands of files). By the time I arrived home, she had sent me a couple of versions of the logo.

Wishing Well Gift Shop logo

With PEI’s plastic shopping bag ban in place, the Wishing Well uses paper bags for purchases, if people request them. I hope to figure out how to get a rubber stamp to start bashing our logo on everything.

I was lucky to find these two helpful and organized people. Life really is all about weaving a web of connections, both online and off.

So Enjoy Your Life

I made this fish biryani (every Thomasina Miers recipe seems to be golden!) for supper while listening to Enjoy Your Life by Marina more times than might seem appropriate for an old doll like me.

Stoic Week is going well (and Marina is half Greek, after all!), and maybe I’m not Stoic enough to sit back and enjoy my problems, as she suggests, but I’m working on it!

Sit back and enjoy your problems

You don’t always have to solve them

‘Cause your worst days they are over

So enjoy your life

Stoic Week

Stoic Week 2019 begins tomorrow, and it’s not too late to sign up. It’s a free program and I’ve taken part for the last few years.

I enjoy all the readings and self-reflection that are built into the program, and I think I am generally happier because of it. I know that I like myself much more as I age, and this is due in no small part to not trying to control every situation, which is sort of Stoicism 101:

“One of the main strategies that runs through both Stoicism and this handbook is that of distinguishing between things that are under your control and things that are not. The Stoics believed that this takes training to do well but that it’s the key to self-discipline and overcoming emotional disturbances. Maintaining this distinction between what is and isn’t under your control requires continual attention to your own thoughts and judgements. We can describe this as a kind of ‘mindfulness’ practice. You’ll build upon this foundation by exploring different Stoic concepts and techniques each day throughout the course of the week.”
Excerpt From: Modern Stoicism. “Stoic Week 2019 Handbook”. Apple Books.

My life as a carer means I need to also take care of myself, but that’s not something I or most other carers do well. Stoic Week is a short burst of study and practice that helps me build resilience and critical thinking. Tell Seneca I sent you.

I’m Special

Dropped by the Elections Canada office at the County Fair Mall yesterday afternoon to find out how to arrange a mail-in ballot for my mother for the October 21 federal election. We did this for the spring provincial election and it eliminated a lot of stress for us like potentially having to travel to the polls in poor weather or standing in long lines.

Two extremely efficient and pleasant women greeted me. All I had to do was give them my mother’s name and mailing address and they would arrange for a voting package to be mailed to her. We were done in a couple of minutes and I stood up to leave.

The woman who took my mother’s information asked me if I would like to vote. I thought she was asking if I intended to vote, but she said she meant I could vote right then and there. I had time, there was no one else in the office, so I gave her my ID, she consulted a computer list, and handed me a ballot.

It was a blank ballot, with just a line on it, no names or little circles to mark. She directed me to the standard white cardboard screen voting booth. Taped to the inside was a list of the four confirmed candidates for my riding in alphabetical order. I was to write the name of my choice on the ballot with the little pencil that was in the booth.

I wrote in my choice, exited the booth, folded the ballot, placed it in an envelope, sealed that envelope with one of those wand-like water-filled sponge envelope sealers, placed that envelope into another envelope, which I signed, dated and sealed, and placed that envelope in a ballot box.

Interesting to note that nominations only close on Monday, September 30, so there is a possibility someone else will come forward before that date. As the four candidates on the list represented the main Canadian parties, I can’t imagine I would have changed my vote anyway, but it is too late to worry about that now.

I wondered afterwards if voting this way would be possible for someone who couldn’t write, for example, but it seems as though Elections Canada has addressed this and many other potential challenges already, and have developed excellent materials that can be shared to educate people on the many accessible voting options.

Steven voted as well, and as I waited for him to finish, the other woman showed me the ballot package she had prepared for my mother. Once the printed ballots were ready, it would be popped in the mail, my mother could vote, and we would either drop her envelope in the mail or take it into their office.

It kind of felt like an “only in PEI” type of thing, very loose and easy, but now that I look it up they were following Elections Canada guidelines for a special ballot.

While many people in the world face huge barriers to casting their vote, I was made to feel like my vote mattered, that accommodating me was the most important job those women had. How lucky we are.