Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 13: Language and Culture (13-17)

Mi’kmaw-language signs celebrate Indigenous history of 2 P.E.I. locations

June 2, 2024

L’nuey executive director says her ancestors would be proud

A family of nine stands in front of the new sign for Rocky Point, P.E.I., which has the traditional Mi'kmaw name, "Kuntal Kwesawe'kl" underneath it.
Roger Sark and family stand in front of the new sign for Rocky Point, P.E.I., which now includes its traditional Mi’kmaw name. (L’nuey)

CBC Indigenous: There are two new highway signs written in the Mi’kmaw language on Prince Edward Island, bringing the province’s total to over 40.

One of the signs was installed at Portage Lake, and includes its traditional name of Meski’k pu’ta’sk. The other is in Rocky Point, and displays the area’s traditional name of Kuntal Kwesawe’kl.

The first Mi’kmaw-language signs on the Island were installed by L’nuey P.E.I. as an Indigenous Awareness Week project in 2020.

L’nuey’s executive director Jenene Wooldridge said language revitalization has always been important to the organization. She has fond memories of when the first signs went up on the Island.

A dark haired woman sits on a rock with the ocean behind her. She is looking at the camera.
‘It adds such a rich historical context to where they live today,’ says Jenene Wooldridge, L’nuey’s executive director. (Submitted)

“It was something new, and it was really something that had our shared history included in it,” Wooldridge said. “That included description and story of how the M’kmaq relied on different locations for their survival in the past.”

Since then, she said L’nuey has tried to add more signs every year during Indigenous Awareness Week, and she’d like to see that practice continue.

‘It adds a rich historical context’

Wooldridge described the feedback about the signs as extremely positive.

“We’ve had municipalities wanting traditional place name signs installed across their location; we’ve had Stratford install a number of signs on their own through partnership with L’nuey,” she said.

“People have been very supportive of this initiative, and it adds such a rich historical context to where they live today.”

A man in some traditional Mi'kmaw clothing stands in front of a sign for Portage Lake/Meski'k pu'ta'sk
Keptin Jimmy Bernard of Lennox Island First Nation stands in front of the new sign in Portage Lake that displays its traditional Mi’kmaw name. (L’nuey)

L’nuey’s website has an interactive map that shows traditional Mi’kmaw-language place names and what they mean.

For example, the Mi’kmaw name for what English speakers call the Hillsborough River is Elsitkuk, pronounced “el-sid-goog.” In English, it means “the place where water flows out but you cannot see where it originates from.”

Every time Wooldridge drives by one of these signs, she feels connected to her ancestors. But it also reminds her of what’s been lost.

“It makes me realize how much of the language has been lost because of colonization, and makes me realize how difficult it is to try to save a language.”

Despite that challenge, Wooldridge thinks her ancestors would be proud to see these signs installed across the Island.

“It was the way that they communicated with each other. It was very descriptive,” she said. “Often the place names tell a story about how they used that land, what the land was best used for in their traditional ways.

“I’m sure they’d be proud to see that live on.”


Sam Wandio, Researcher

Sam Wandio is a researcher at CBC P.E.I., working with the digital team. He is a graduate of Holland College’s journalism program and he holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Prince Edward Island.