FREDERICTON (GNB) – New videos to promote and preserve the use of the Maliseet language in New Brunswick were launched today in Fredericton by community members from the Tobique First Nation.

"Achieving a greater understanding of one's language and culture is paramount in today's diverse society," said Premier David Alward, who is also minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. "This important project will help preserve and promote Maliseet in New Brunswick and beyond. I am grateful that the elders at Tobique are willing to share their knowledge of the language and their culture with the youth of today."    

The short films feature elders speaking to youth learners in various social settings and locations with the aim of reducing the drastic decline in the fluency of Maliseet and cultural knowledge among First Nations people in New Brunswick.  

The collection of videos, launched recently, will be available as a permanent record of Maliseet in a wide range of subjects, issues and concepts, and it will preserve the spoken word, including most of the basic vocabulary, syntax and grammar that make up the language.

The first phase of the program was made possible through a collaboration involving the Tobique First Nation, the Executive Council Office (aboriginal affairs) and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

A survey done in the mid-1990s revealed that few Maliseet between 21 to 30 were fluent in the language. It also found that youth between 11 to 20 knew few Maliseet words.  

The Maliseet Language Preservation and Restoration program is designed to help First Nations youth, the fastest growing population in the province, improve their academic performance through a better understanding of their culture and heritage and an overall increase in the pride they have in their roots.

"Former chief Stewart Paul recognized the need to preserve the Maliseet language, which has been on the decline for a number of generations," said Allan Tremblay, leader of the initiative. "Phase One concentrated on Maliseet traditions and history, and the Phase Two built on increasing vocabulary. Current Chief Brenda Perley is in total support of the project."

Tobique is the oldest and largest Maliseet Nation in New Brunswick, with 40 per cent of all Maliseet living on-reserve within the community.