The Mi’kmaq speak a language that belongs to the Algonquian family, and it is in danger of disappearing. Indeed, only half of the Mi’kmaq still speak their traditional language. Mi’kmaq is taught in the elementary schools in Restigouche and Maria. Parents and grandparents who attended formal schools were not permitted to speak Mi’kmaq in their classrooms or on the schoolyard. As such, it is common to hear  Mi’kmaq speaking English today. Many Mi’kmaq living in Gaspé also speak French.

Mi’kmaq did not have a formal writing system before the arrival of Europeans, but they did trace hieroglyphs on birch bark which they used as memory aids or maps of the territory. Knowledge was essentially transmitted orally. Oral traditions were and are still used to pass on knowledge about the environment and the manufacturing techniques of everyday objects from one generation to another. These oral traditions also recalled the events that marked the nation and perpetuated myths that explain the creation of the world and natural phenomena

The word “Micmac” or “Mi’kmaq” means “My Friends, My Parents.” In their language, the Mi’kmaq called themselves “The Nu’k”, which means “The People.”

Since the 1990s, the Mi’kmaq word “Listuguj” [River of Five Branches] has been used to refer to the village of Restigouche. The name of the village of Maria comes from “Gesgapegiag” [Where the River Widens]. The Mi’kmaq from Gaspé used the word “Gespeg” [The End of the Territory] to name their community.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social. Adapted with additions by LEARN.

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