Episode 2: Gentle Words - Maliseet

This episode examines the efforts and the importance of community involvement in maintaining and reviving culture and language. Imelda Perley a teacher and Maliseet speaker has committed much of her time and knowledge to the people of St. Mary's, Kingclear and Tobique N.B.


Maliseet/Wolastoq is part of the Algonquin language, although Maliseet is a Mi'kmaw word meaning slow talker or lazy speaker, Maliseet/Wolastoq is significantly different from Mi'kmaw. Due to the Jay Treaty which gave the Maliseet free border crossing rights between the two countries the Maliseet share the same history, culture and language with the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes. The Maliseet Nation of Canada has 7 bands with more than 3000 people.


Part 1

Imelda Perley teaches language and culture at the University of New Brunswick. She also runs"Wolastoq Language and Cultural Centre" in St. Mary's. She runs a language teaching program for all members of the community and for young students who want to learn the language but are unable to attend University.

We see Imelda teaching the language to three generations of students who are interested in learning. These language sessions involve doing laundry, setting the table, sweeping, etc, everything involving daily life. Having a talking circle Imelda feels, is an important way to finish a language session.

We follow her as she takes her students to the bowling alley to learn hands on about all aspects of bowling. Later we visit with an elder Charles Soloman, who talks to Imelda about the art of basket making using language as a tool. Following this we will attend a sweat lodge organized for the people of the community.

Part 2

In this part of the episode we will visit the amazing teacher Christine Saulis, who has been teaching her language for the past 20 years. Taking a look at her classroom wall, we will go back in time to where her teaching all started. Her classroom walls are filled with pictures of all the students that she has taught in the past 20 years. We will film as students pick out mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles from the assortment of photos that are displayed so lovingly by Christine.

We also visit South Devon Elementary School, in St. Mary's which has a unique gift to all parents who visit the school, called "Language Bundles" these wonderful bundles enables parents to learn the language as well, for in each bundle there is a piece of paper with Maliseet words, and each word has the root and meaning. Making the bundles is a learning experience as well, as we see when Imelda's student prepare the bundles for each elder.

Language keeper

Christine Saulis has been involved in developing curriculum for the Maliseet language since the late 80's at the South Devon Elementary public school in Fredericton. She has been teaching grades 3-4-5 for the past 20 or more years teaching the language through phonetics. Her classroom is covered with Maliseet culture, words, and pictures of her students.