The Wabanaki (meaning “People of the Dawn”) are a group of Indigenous peoples which include the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy. The traditional Wabanaki territory included areas of what is now known as Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States – specifically New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, eastern Quebec, Maine (USA), and Vermont (USA).
This can be a confusing topic, especially as individual opinions and terms continue to shift over time. The simplest and most important approach is to speak with an open and respectful attitude, and allow your terminology to shift as your understanding grows.
That being said, here are the specifics:
Whenever possible, it is best to use the terms for local communities. In this case you may use “Wabanaki” or specifically identify the Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, Penobscot, Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik nations as appropriate.
“Aboriginal,” “Indigenous” and “First Nation(s)” are acceptable, but are prohibitively broad terms. It’s preferable for instructors to use local terminology for different communities whenever possible.
Aboriginal: This is a term defined in the constitution which includes First Nations, Metis, Innu and Inuit peoples of Canada.
Indigenous: This is inclusive of all original inhabitants, globally.
First Nation(s): includes all those communities defined as “bands” under the Indian Act.
Terms like “tribe” and “band” are outdated and should not be used in the classroom. Other terms which are incorrect or disrespectful should be avoided, including “Native,” “Indian,” and “Reservation.” The latter is a derogatory term, initially meant to refer to reserves for wild savages, in much the same way there are reserves for wildlife.
A respectful alternative is “community.” Terms such as “First Nation community”, “First Nation administration office”, and “First Nation citizens” are preferred in place of “band”, “band office”, and “band members”.
Wolastoq refers to the beautiful and bountiful river also known as the St. John River.
Wolastoqey is an adjective in reference to inanimate objects, e.g., Wolastoqey lodge, Wolastoqey language, Wolastoqey birch bark canoe, Wolastoqey Centre, etc.
When referring to the people, you would say Wolastoqi. For example, Wolastoqi teachers, Wolastoqi Elders, etc.
When referring to the people in the context of nationhood, you would say Wolastoqiyik or Wolastoqewiyik. (These words are interchangeable. It is simply a matter of preference). For example, “Wolastoqiyik established a clan system. Among Wolastoqewiyik, there were four villages.” Both Wolastoqiyik and Wolastoqewiyik mean the “People of the River.”
Maliseet refers to the Wolastoqiyik and derives from their neighbours the Mi’kmaq. Generally the term Wolastoqiyik is preferred. In the Mi’kmaq language, the word “Maliseet” means “lazy speakers” or “slow speakers.”
Yes. Most of the resources are created by Indigenous authors, and all materials are vetted by Indigenous people or Elders to ensure they are accurate and respectful.
Yes! You’re very much encouraged to introduce Wabanaki perspectives into the classroom by inviting Elders and other community resource people to class. This approach will also provide an opportunity for students to ask questions, discuss issues, and request clarification.
Instructors will find that Elders and community resource people are always willing to share their knowledge and information with students attending public and First Nation schools. Typically they appreciate the recognition and acknowledgement given to their language, culture, traditions, teachings, and worldviews.
If you decide to request the assistance of Elders/resource people in achieving your curriculum objectives, it is recommended you contact the Director of Education at a local First Nation community or Education Workers employed by First Nations/school districts. They will usually have a list of community resource people who are willing to share their knowledge and information with your students. In fact, they will often initiate contact with a resource person on your behalf and make arrangements for subsequent planning meetings between instructors and resource people.