Tag Archives: Mi'kmaq

The sounds of the land

The upcoming merger of four PEI credit unions means the new entity will need a new name. I just completed a member survey where I was asked to rate and give my response to six possible new names…or, rather, five new names and the name of one of the existing credit unions.

The first two sounded like the names of cars, the next one reminded me of John A. MacDonald and colonialism (not a favourable association), the fourth was surprisingly light and fun, the fifth just didn’t sound good to me, and the last one was that existing credit union name. Choosing the existing name would make some members angry that they lost their local credit union name in the merger while other members got to keep theirs, confirming earlier concerns raised at public meetings that the whole process felt like a centralised takeover which would weaken rural voices. I found it an odd choice after all the acrimony.

Although there wasn’t a place to offer other suggestions, I wrote into one of the response boxes that I wanted them to pick a Mi’kmaw word. It is the language of the first people of this island, the real language of this land. It is a rich, living language, unlike the Latin and Latin-derived words the (probable) branding consultants chose. I don’t have a suggestion for what the new credit union could be called, because that should be up to the Mi’kmaq.

I have just started reading Isabelle Knockwood’s 1992 book Out of the Depths about the experiences of Mi’kmaw children who were sent to the Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. Just an hour before the survey landed in my inbox, I had read this sentence about Knockwood’s memories of listening to elders telling stories:

The stories were ancient, and the language in which they were told was even older. According to my mother, Deodis, the Mi’kmaw language evolved from the sounds of the land, the winds and the waterfalls. As far as we know, there is no other language like it spoken anywhere else in the world.

What an opportunity to have the Mi’kmaw language more visible across this island, on the side of many branches of a new credit union, something unique, truly from and of Epekwitk.

[I’ve read many explanations of the difference between Mi’kmaq and Mi’kmaw, and am struggling to use the words correctly, so I welcome corrections; I would rather try and fail than not try at all!]