Wyatt Moulton, 17, stands in front of the Delta Hotel Fredericton and holds up a bingo card. First in Wolastoqey and then in English.
It’s bingo night for delegates at a language conference for the six Wolastoqey First Nations in New Brunswick.
Neqotkuk’s teen stated, “It feels nice calling bingo for the olders.” It’s a way to modernize our language and use it in a way that shows how our language can change.
Wyatt learned his language from Wyatt’s grandparents and mother. These days, having three generations in one family who all speak Wolastoqey is pretty much unheard of, he said.
The conference has reminded him that there are a lot of speakers out there, and “it feels amazing” to be surrounded by them.
“It feels like when we work together we accomplish our common goal of bringing back our language, taking back our language, taking back our space.”
Good night, good day, I love and miss you
Wyatt plays weekly bingo at Neqotkuk. He also interprets stories and books.
He plans to continue his learning of the language after high school.
He credits his grandparents, Elders, and his mother, Wendi Moulton, for passing it on to him.
Wyatt considers his language skills to be “basic intermediate”.
He laughed and said, “If I really wanted to flatter myself, I would probably say that I have the fluency like a three-year old.” “I speak a toddler’s Wolastoqey. But I’m still learning.”
Wendi explained that when her son was growing up Wendi made sure the last thing he heard at night and the first thing he heard the next morning were words from his language.
“Wəli pemolakwiw — Goodnight. And Wəli sapawiw — Good morning, Kəseləmol — I love you,” she said, laughing.
“I’m just so proud, I’m amazed,” Wendi said as she watched her son.
“I’m just happy that he didn’t do other things, like teens his age would do but no, he immersed himself in our culture. He is so involved in our old way of living, not just with the language. He sings and he drums.
‘I’m quite alone’
Wyatt would love it if other people his age could speak to him in Wolastoqey.
He said, “I’m quite by myself when it comes down to speaking the language.”
He is the only student at his school who can speak, and he says it is “really sucking.”
“I call for my fellow youth to … learn as much words as they can. One word could be all you need. It’s possible to learn 100 words. It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. Your ancestors love to hear from you. So speak your language. Skicinowato nitapiyik — Nit-te psiw.”
Wendi acknowledged that her son may not be able to see it, but believes he is instilling the same spirit in his peers. She recalls being a teenager and not wanting her parents speaking in Wolastoqey.
“‘Cause that wasn’t something I knew growing up. I even plugged both my ears, and was like “Aaahhh, don’t talk to me this way.” It’s a shame. Wendi paused, and said: “I’m glad that he’s bringing back it, you know.”
Elders are’so happy, so proud’
Before the bingo game gets started, Elder and language carrier Imelda Perley gave Wyatt a few phrases to add to his bingo-calling repertoire.
They laughed together as they went over the Wolastoqey words for numbers, and how to say things such as “wild number,” “jackpot” and “four corners.”
Perley stated that Wyatt calling a Thursday night Elders game in Neqotkuk was the first time she had cried.
“Soon as I heard it — I didn’t know that was going to happen — I lost it. I was so happy, so proud, that I had to tell him.”
Wyatt’s voice started to crack as the bingo game went on.
His mother laughed at the incident. She was sitting next to him, pulling the bingo balls and handing them to him one by one.
“I love it. Yes, I do. She said that she loves it when he speaks Wolastoqey.
And she knows the elders love hearing it too.
It’s a huge thing for them to see and hear young people speaking the language with such passion. He’s an inspiration to not only his peers but also to the Elders.
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