Tradition meets modern day living in the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw education authority’s newest initiative to promote and retain the First Nation language.

Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey and Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk, in partnership with a Mi’kmaw language advisory committee, have created twelve applications to make learning the Mi’kmaw language easier and more accessible for both fluent and non-speakers alike. 

Available on both Android and Apple devices, the apps were developed in-house by Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey and Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk staff, with direction given by a language advisory committee in choosing appropriate content and ensuring accuracy in the translations.

Blaire Gould, Mi’kmaw Language Coordinator at Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, believes bridging the gap between the traditions of the past and technological advancements of today will start to break down walls prohibiting the growth of the language, particularly among youth. 

She says that while students are taught and encouraged to speak the language at school, they often stop speaking it after school hours, and one reason for that is limited access. 

“We need to cultivate a culture of learning the language and it starts with making it easy to see and hear,” said Gould. “And, what’s more accessible to our youth right now than technology?”

Gould adds that the apps are not only designed for youth, but can be used by anyone of any age to improve or retain their language skills.

Kevin Burton, Director of Atlantic Canada First Nation Help Desk, says having language apps readily available also helps promote the language in a supportive and non-threatening manner. 

“I’ve heard of fluent speakers being quizzed by their children,” shares Burton. “Sometimes the youth are even finding blind spots in their parents’ speech - to their great entertainment!” 

He says it will be valuable in remote communities with limited access to tangible resources, and in communities with few to no fluent speakers who can pass on the language.  

Currently, six apps are available in the Apple iTunes Store with six more in review. Eight apps are available in the Google Play Store with three more to be added. 

Gould says they’ll continue to update the apps with new content and welcome suggestions from the public. 

“Teachers have given us several suggestions for new apps and we’re already working on those.”

Anyone wishing to submit content can contact or, or reach out via Facebook (Atlantic Canada First Nation Help Desk) or Twitter (@firstnationhelp). 

In January 2015, Potlotek First Nation launched a new program for community members who are interested in resume building, interview preparation, and career planning. The Pre-Employment program is open to all community members, regardless of their prior educational experience. 

The program will run for 22 weeks and involves courses such as WHMIS and various workshops geared toward student interest. Program participants will learn how to identify their transferrable skills and build a resume that demonstrates their capabilities. 

At the end of the program, participants will have the opportunity to do some job shadowing in their desired field. There are also plans for a career fair to take place in May. 

“ I love this program so far, ” said Amanda Marshall, program participant. “Even though it just started, it already helps me see how I am going to get further than I’ve been trying to get for the past few years.”

Noelle Doucette, Education Director, explained that funding for the program was requested in the summer and the approval was received in November. In previous years, a program focusing on Literacy was offered to community members, but she says this program will incorporate more essential skills to prepare participants to enter the workforce. 

“I felt it was important to offer a program to our community that provides students with skills to help them get into the workforce, along with some basic safety programs,” explained Doucette. 

Although it is still in the early stages, students are very excited about the program and the opportunities it has to offer.

“I enjoy it because it helps me get focused. I am learning where my strengths and weaknesses are and what I have to work on,” said Marshall. 

“I already have my grade 12 and I know what I want to do. This is going to help me build my resume.”


The program is limited to 10 students and is currently filled to capacity. Due to interest in the program, funding has been requested for next year.

A new swimming program for students with special needs is creating confidence and fun in Eskasoni. Since starting last September, the class of six students in Learning Centre 2, their educational assistants, and their teacher travel to the Kiwanis Pool in Sydney once a month for a morning of swimming fun. 

Student Services Consultant, Janean Marshall, said the benefits of the swimming program to the students’ individual learning goals are plentiful. 

“Each student has their own aide so they’re able to learn at their own pace and in their own way,” said Marshall. 

She said an overarching goal for the program was to teach the students basic swimming and water survival skills because open or unsupervised water poses a greater danger and challenge to many individuals with sensory and mobility issues. A certified swim instructor at the Kiwanis Pool volunteers their time to instruct the class.

Marshall says in addition to the acquired skills, students are engaging in a unique and soothing form of therapy because water provides a weightless environment.

“Before this program, one teen participant had never been swimming because she is in a wheelchair,” said Marshall. “As the students spend more time in the water, they are becoming more comfortable with the feeling of it, getting stronger, and are having fun.” 

“It’s wonderful to see the students improve month after month, and the pride and joy in their faces when they do.”


A New Year always brings opportunities for a fresh start, and this new year began with a new Mi’kmaw language teacher for Wagmatcookewey School. 

Louise Pierro, a teacher with the school for over 20 years, excitedly accepted the position. 

“There was not enough being done for our language,” Pierro explained.  “I could see it being lost in our community and I really wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could do in the school.”

Over the past few months, community elders have been working in collaboration with the school to develop a plan for the Mi’kmaw Curriculum. 

The plan involves having a “Cultural Day” every Friday, which will include different activities each week. Community members will put on workshops in drumming, story telling, ice fishing and other culturally based activities. Mi’kmaq will be spoken during these activities so that students get to hear words and phrases that go along with the activity.

“I am really excited about it,” said Pierro.  “It’s a great way to get the community involved with the school and to have fun while learning the language.”

Wagmatcook Learning Center first opened its doors in August of 2014 and students have experienced a very successful first term at the new center. For several years, the NSCC Strait Area Campus offered training to people in the community on a small scale. This year, the new Wagmatcook Learning Centre is offering plumbing, Mi’kmaw health and wellness, and electrical and industrial construction. All programs are open to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal students. 

Nestled in the foothills of the Cape Breton Highlands and located an hour away from the nearest city centers, Wagmatcook First Nation provides a unique opportunity for rural students who wish to continue their education close to home.

“It was a dream that the students had,” explained Chief Norman Bernard. “They went to school in our community from Kindergarten through to grade 12 and they really wanted to be able to get their Trades training here as well.” 

Tom Gunn, NSCC principal, describes the advantage of offering NSCC programs in Wagmatcook. “This is a huge geographic area. We have students here from Margaree and Cheticamp who have families living in the area. Having programming here allows those students to attend training without having to make the long trip into Sydney or Port Hawkesbury. This is especially important during the winter months.”

The center will be run as a rotational Trades center, offering different courses on an as needed basis. The courses offered right now are in high demand and will change as demand changes. Classes run from Monday to Thursday and so far, the feedback has been very positive. Students have just completed their first term at the learning center and are very impressed with the environment on campus. 

“I love it here!” said one student about her experience so far. “It’s perfect for me to be able to come into school and get my work done without any distractions.”

When asked what they thought of the programming being offered in Wagmatcook, students had nothing but positive things to say. 

“Having NSCC in my community helps me get to school,” said one student. “I went to school in Sydney for a few years and I felt like I didn’t get anywhere. Now I feel like I’m getting somewhere!”

For more information about NSCC or to apply to one of their programs please visit

January 6, 2015 marked the opening ceremony of Alan Syliboy’s Thundermaker exhibit at the McConnell Library in Sydney. The exhibit ran for 10 days at the Sydney location and included not only work from the artist, but also showcased artwork created by students from Membertou, Eskasoni and Potlotek. 

The ceremony began with Syliboy joining the Sons of Membertou in a performance of the Honor Song, followed by welcoming remarks offered by Rosalie Gillis from the McConnell Library, and Darren Googoo on behalf of Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. 

Googoo spoke about the importance of art for our youth in that “art is the medium that gives people voice.” He went on to share that “Alan is an inspiration to our young students. His interpretation of the world shows them that creativity and imagination are important traits to develop.” 

Syliboy spoke to the crowd about the development of Thundermaker as a continuation of the stories of the Stone Canoe and Little Thunder. He also spoke about his new book that will be released later this year.  

“School didn’t work out so well for me but I sure am making up for it by spending all this time in libraries and making books,” laughed Sylliboy. “The exhibit seems to be gaining momentum at each place we go and I am happy that Thundermaker is making camp here for a while.” 

Students from Membertou, Eskasoni and Potlotek had the opportunity to visit the exhibit while it was in Sydney.  

We’re excited and proud to share that MK Student Services Consultant, Janean Marshall, will be a panelist at Mount Saint Vincent University’s TEDX event on February 12!

‘Embracing Possibilities’ is the topic of discussion, and Janean will lend her personal and professional experiences.

The event takes place from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. in the Rosaria Multi-Purpose Room on campus. The event is open to the public: $15 general admission and $10 with student ID. Can’t make it in person? Follow the discussion on Twitter via #tedxmsvu. For more information, visit the event website.

Pictou Landing will be the first MK school to benefit from Special Olympics Nova Scotia’s Active Start program.

Active Start was piloted by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board in 2011 for children with an intellectual disability. The program aims to provide social, physical and cognitive interaction while engaging students in fundamental movement skills to increase physical literacy in the early grades. 

This is the first year the program will be implemented in an MK school. 

Tom Fahie, Youth Development Coordinator for Special Olympics Nova Scotia, says he’s pleased about the launch in Pictou Landing because it means they are now serving a Mi’kmaq population within their own community.

“I believe this program will become a template for other First Nation communities that wish to help bring fundamental movement skills to the children most affected by intellectual disabilities,” said Fahie.

MK Student Services Consultant, Janean Marshall, is excited to see youth in Pictou Landing engaging in higher levels of active and healthy living.

"Healthy minds, bodies and spirits allows all children to grow in immeasurable ways," said Marshall."This program is the start of exciting opportunities for all children to think beyond all the limits and labels."

Fahie predicts he will see success in Pictou Landing and he hopes it will lead to other MK schools adopting the program.

Active Start launches in Pictou Landing on February 11 at Pictou Landing Elementary School  beginning at 6 p.m. For more information about the program, please contact Janean Marshall at or Tom Fahie at  

Babies and Books, MK's newest literacy program, launched this past Fall in Membertou and Indian Brook with great success! In this six-week program, parents learn to stimulate their baby's language development and growing mind by reading books, singing songs, and reciting nursery rhymes.

The second session of Babies and Books will take place this Spring in several MK communities. For more information, contact Rebecca Scirocco-Paul at or 902-567-0336.

Attention Schools and Youth-Serving Groups!

Celebrate Winter Walk Day in your community! Winter is as good a time as any to walk. Schools, youth groups and others are invited to walk to school, have an intentional walk or go for a hike on Winter Walk Day. Don’t let cold, wind, snow or rain keep children and youth from heading out for a walk. If they dress properly and practice winter safety, they’re ready to go! Walking is fun when you walk together. The extra physical activity is good for our bodies. It’s good for the Earth if you walk as transportation because it cuts down on the number of polluting cars on our streets.

Be sure to do your part on Winter Walk Day, and everyday for that matter. If you are responsible for clearing snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of your home or business, please ensure you do so as soon as possible after a snow fall or freezing rain.

Winter Walk Day is a partnership of Take the Roof Off Winter, the Ecology Action Centre and the Heart&Stroke Walkabout. Take The Roof Off Winter is a winter active campaign coordinated by Recreation Nova Scotia designed to help Nova Scotians of all ages improve their health and quality of life by being outdoors and active this winter.

Register and download Winter Walk Day resources at

Learn more about Take The Roof Off Winter at 


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