PORT HASTINGS: A survivor of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School and local Mi’kmaq elder says a new sign welcoming people to Unama’ki (Cape Breton) in her native language is something she never thought she’d see.
Mi’kmaq Elder Ma’git Poulette of We’koqma’q First Nation indicated as a child at just three-years-old, she was forbidden to speak her Mi’kmaw language.
“I lost my language and fought hard to relearn it and make sure my children spoke it,” Poulette said. “Today, to see people welcomed to Unama’ki, in my language, when they cross the causeway is a dream come true.”
In recognition of Mi’kmaq people, their language and the significant geographical location, motorists travelling across the Canso Causeway will now be welcomed by a new sign that reads “Pjila’si Unama’kik,” which loosely translates to “Welcome to the Land of the Fog.”
At a ceremony on July 9, Premier Iain Rankin, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, along with Mi’kmaq elders and chiefs, unveiled the prototype sign. The actual sign will be installed on the far east entrance to the island.
“Increasing knowledge and awareness about Mi’kmaq language and culture is important to understanding our shared history,” Rankin said, who is also the Minister of L’nu Affairs. “This new sign is one way to recognize Mi’kmaq connection to the land and home of many Mi’kmaq communities on the island.”
Chief Leroy Denny, a chairperson for Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey suggested the installation of the sign, using traditional Mi’kmaq spelling, on the causeway shows how the province and First Nations communities are working together towards reconciliation.
“The Mi’kmaw language is vital to our existence. It is the foundation to understanding who we are,” Denny said. “Using the original place names gives all Nova Scotians and visitors a better understanding of the landscape here in Mi’kma’ki.”