Mi’gmaq history is a complicated term for Glenda Wysote-Labillois.
“This is our history,” she said. “This is our way of life. This is how we live.”
Wysote-Labillois is an elder, owner of the Sacred Fire Healing Lodge, and a fluent Mi’gmaq speaker.
When discussing “Mi’gmaq History Month,” she says her perspective is completely different. She lives everyday as a “traditional person that’s living with culture, and practicing culture, and doing that on a daily basis for the past 24 years.”
Wysote-Labillois grew up speaking Mi’gmaq as her first language. It wasn’t until Grade 1 that she was forced to speak English, and even then, she wasn’t aware that English was her “second language.”
“I never knew that, until I went to university,” she said. “I just always thought that I had a hard time to read, or a hard time to write.”
She now travels home to Listuguj as often as she can, even if only to speak the language.
She has friends, family, and neighbors that are fluent. Speaking with them can be deeply familiar.
“I can actually hear my parents speak,” she said. “Because they spoke in the same dialect.”
She says she’s very fortunate to practice a way of life that has been practiced for thousands of years.
“We’ve been so assimilated, with the church, with the language, with all these material things – that’s not what’s important. The children need to learn about mother earth. Where the food comes from … We need to learn hunting, fishing, you know. We need to learn how to respect one another. Respect the youth, respect the elders. Again – like the four directions that I talk about, with the children, women, and men and the elders. We need to go back to that again, and respect again.”