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.

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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.

Individual and business donors can contribute to the Wolastoqey Language Fund through the Canada Helps donation form below. Donors will receive an instant tax receipt for their donation. Alternatively, donations can be arranged by contacting the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation through Andrea Durfee at [email protected] or mailed to our office headquarters at 4 Stanley Johnson Street, Millbrook NS B6L 5B4 . There is only a short window of time to involve fluent speakers in the revitalization of the Wolastoqey language. Any support you can offer is appreciated. Woliwon!

Watch the mini-documentary featuring Kehkimin by Mi’kmaq Filmmaker, Desmond Simon.