Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation Supports the Wolastoqey Language through the Creation of a New Designated Fund

October 13, 2023 (Fredericton, NB) – It is estimated that there are less than 100 fluent speakers of the Wolastoqey language and most of them are over 65 years old. UNESCO classifies the Wolastoqey language as severely endangered. The Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation has created a new designated fund to support the revitalization of the language.

The Wolastoqiyik, the people of the beautiful and bountiful river — or the Wolastoq, are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy. This is the alliance of the five principal Eastern Algonquian Nations: the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Peskotomahkati, Penobscot and Abenaki. Despite colonial authorities naming the river the St. John River, and the current provincial government refusing to change its name to the Wolastoq, this river has been and still is a vital source of food and medicine, as well as connecting the Wolastoqiyik communities along its banks. Wolastokuk — the territory of the Wolastoqiyik — runs along this river and extends into Québec (Canada) and Maine (US). The Wolastoqey language is an essential part of the Wolastoqiyik and is part of the Algonquian language family.

Indigenous communities are now the fastest growing community in Canada. But as Elders who have held onto their languages continue to disappear, reviving languages for new generations is a priority. But how? One example is Lisa Perley-Dutcher and her team’s efforts through the creation of “Kehkimin” – the first Wolastoqey land-based immersion school at Killarney Lake in Fredericton, New Brunswick, which opened in 2022. Kehkimin means “teach me” and is a non-profit organization currently working through the process of being established as a registered charitable organization. Using immersive language and land-based early childhood education that is embedded in the ways of Wolastoqiyik, Kehkimin sustains and strengthens Wolastoqey language revitalization. To re-connect with the ways of the Wolastoqiyik and empower future generations, the school aims to create new generations of fluent speakers. They currently have ten students.

“As a language rooted in the land, we can strengthen our language within students and the community by allowing them to learn from the land,” states Lisa Perley-Dutcher. “This will enable us to strengthen ourselves and our communities. It is not the work of a single individual, but rather a community of people. This includes speakers, Elders, educators, leaders, allies, and philanthropic donors. We can protect this language, but we will need the help of many.”

According to Chris Googoo, CEO of Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation, “In order to preserve a language, we must come together as a community. As a child, I was fortunate to grow up in an environment rooted in Mi’kmaq language, and the combination of human connection and the land inspired me to continue learning the language. As a result, we realize how significant it is to build generations of speakers. A language is always worth saving.”

To support Kehkimin, curriculum development, teacher salaries, training, land-based learning engagement, and infrastructure are just a few of the resources needed. The Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation created a Wolastoqey Land Fund to contribute directly to initiatives and programs that support Wolastoqey language development like Kehkimin. Such initiatives help to preserve the language and culture of the Wolastoqey People and ensure that all Wolastoqey children have access to quality education rooted in their language.

Individual and business donors can contribute to the Wolastoqey Language Fund through the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation website and/or by accessing a link on Canada Helps. Donors will receive a tax receipt for their donation. Alternatively, donations can be arranged by contacting the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation through Andrea Durfee at [email protected].

There is only a short window of time to involve fluent speakers in the revitalization of the Wolastoqey language. There are still some spaces to catch Lisa, who will be speaking at the upcoming Forward Together: Connecting Philanthropy to Indigenous Communities event about “The Urgency of Funding Indigenous People’s Language Revitalization”, on October 18th at the Fredericton Convention Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick.


For more media inquiries, please contact:

Andrea Durfee | Communications Manager
Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation
[email protected] | cell: 902-809-7580

Important Links:

Landing page for the Designated fund: https://ulnoowegfoundation.ca/wolastoqey-language-fund/

Kehkimin: https://www.kehkimin.org/

Mi’kmaq Documentary Filmmaker, Desmond Simon’s feature film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0WfcHsBN2w

CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/original-voices/wolastoqey

Forward. Together: Connecting Philanthropy and Indigenous Communities event (Oct 17-19): https://ulnoowegfoundation.ca/forward-together-connecting-philanthropy-with-indigenous-communities/