Mi’kmaq recognized as the first language of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, 13 chiefs and a slew of other dignitaries were in attendance at Potlotek First Nation on Sunday morning for the proclamation of the new Mi’kmaw language law.

The law sees Mi’kmaw officially recognized as the province’s first language.

For Chief Andrea Paul of the Pictou Landing First Nation, the proclamation is historic.

“I felt like I was a part of history,” Paul said. “It’s something that’s so important.”

The move is also monumental for Eskasoni First Nation Chief Leroy Denny.

“Just a few decades ago, our language was not welcome in this country,” Denny explained. “We were forced to lose our language and not speak it.”

The Prime Minister believes that the Mi’kmaq Language Act is another important step on the long road to reconciliation.

“It’s a step in the journey for the community to know that their province supports them and sees the importance of their language in this case, but their culture in general,” Houston said.

Besides ceremony and symbolism, the act will make the Mi’kmaw language more visible.

“We will be able to learn it in all schools, not just Mi’kmaq schools, not just Mi’kmaq communities, but across the province,” Denny said.

Although the legislation was proclaimed on Sunday, it was first passed by the provincial legislature in April.

Mi’kmaq chiefs signed a resolution to uphold and enforce provincial legislation on behalf of their respective communities.

“It sets a precedent for other provinces, I hope,” Paul said. “Because, as our great leader said, if we lose our language, we won’t be able to go anywhere to get it back.”

Sunday’s historic Mi’kmaw Language Act will go into effect Oct. 1, which is also treaty day.

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