I’ve been passionate about my Scottish Gaelic roots for over a decade.
It’s a minority language that’s struggling in many ways.
But my friend Amber, who I’m bring to the Global Collaborative meeting – gives me a lot of hope.
I met Amber Buchanan (pictured right with her daughter Lemuria) in the spring of 2005 in Cape Breton at a Gaelic youth event that my classmate Emily MacKinnon and I were coordinating.
She was so full of energy and passion for her language and culture. It was the first gathering around Gaelic she’d done to. We stayed in touch and I did a little interview with her on an old blog of mine.
Years later, she hosted a Gaelic youth gathering in her home (pictured left) in Cape Breton which really changed my life and gave me some deep, long lasting friendships with the Gaelic community.
I would later co-star in a movie, The Fiddler’s Reel with Shannon MacDonald (pictured in this movie poster thing) who was at this gathering.
What got you involved in the Gaelic community?
I got involved in Gaelic in my community because the North Shore is a place that WAS extremely rich in Gaelic tradition. 70 years ago, English was a foreign language here. Many of the parents then wouldn’t have had much English.
It’s been about 15 yrs since there was a Gaelic class here.
I started Gaelic classes here because I want Gaelic to come back to life here, our culture is very much alive, but in an anglasized (sp) way. We need our language to bring us together and to give us strengh, focus and peace. I want so badly for those who are from here to learn Gaelic, or atleast try. There are many people now living here from away, and a few taking classes, but the main group is from here :)
I knew that if I did not start something there would be nothing.
I started this for me and for my daughter and for my whole community. Many of us are empty in these times and not sure why. i believe that connecting with our ancestors by honoring our language will give us great strength and peace in our hearts and souls. I learned the dialect uniqe to here and speak and teach only that dialect, which I am the only one doing so. (There are 5 people alive that I know of with this dialect in NS).
I started this because I am proud of my people and my land and because I want to make this my home. I did this because I must do what is in my heart, and that is Gaelic.
I’m really excited to start regular Gaelic classes again, 2 days a week at my house all fal and winter,this yr we’re adding a 2 hr evening class as well. (If we get the funding – which I feel 98% confident we will).
Also excited to do more Gaelic Immersino weekends, this time open to all ages, hoping to see some really young folks here with their parents :)
How do you feel about the state of Gaelic in Nova Scotia these days?
I feel better than I ever have about the state of Gaelic in CB.
It has a long way to go, but I believe there is a solid group who has a great momentum going. There seems to be new faces popping up quite often. I was to a milling frolic last week in another community, this weekend I’m going to listen to 2 Gaelic speakers place fiddle and pipes at our church for an evening ceilidh and I’m going to an all Gaelic wedding at the highland village on Saturday, Gaelic service and everything. SUPER cool. There seems to be a lot of great projects going on all the time. I am confident that with persistence patience and faith, our Gaelic community will continue to grow and grow.
What kinds of community projects are you involved in right now?
I got funding for the following 2 projects from the Office of Gaelic Affairs
Project #1: 8 Song workshops that teach 2-3 songs each, we had an awesome turn out of 12 at the last one. we learned 3 songs and a bunch of choruses to milling songs. we sit at the milling table at the old school house turned into community hall (where you came with me to work that day)
Project #2: Gaelic Immersion at my House. This won’t happen until September but it will be 2 weeks of Gaelic immersion at my house, 5 days a week all gaelic, most will likely be locals some may choose to stay at my house for the 2 weeks. making traditional food, learning songs as well, going outside trying as much as possible to integrate cultural activities into the day. just speaking gaelic in the house, listening to old recordings and learning some older stories and jokes.
It is going to be so inspiring to people to know that if you are surrounded by the language for short intense periods YOU CAN learn it.
Project #3: Gaelic Youth Immersion. I am also doing the 1 last Gaelic immersion weekend for youth 18-40 at my house. Main focus for the weekend, sining songs, having a fire on the beech, going out during the day and collecting herbs to make medicines, tinctures, balms, teas, etc. SOOO EXCITED for this. Just to be outside and in the woods speaking and singing Gaelic songs.
Project #4: Master Apprentice Project. I am doing a master apprenticeship program with my great grandmother’s sister, who leaned her Gaelic from her grandmother, she herself is 83 (maybe 82?) She is from the north Shore but now lives in Westmout. we usually put in 10 hours a week making fish chowder, oatcakes, biscutes, or whatever, we often make dishes that she needs to take to her church. we listen to old recordings from the people of north shore. we look at old photos of the place. we go for groceries together, do laundry, do dishes, plant flowers, so out and get whatever she needs. she’s extreemly mobile and her and her man go out all the time, but i enjoy so much being able to help at the same time just the same.
I’d have to say this is what I’m most excited about.
Even though she is my great grand aunt, it’s difficult to make the time in my life to go do the visit. It is So powerful to learn directly from your own family, I am extremely fortunate to have her in my life, while delving deeper into my language, I am learning the ways of thinking and acting in the world from my elder who learned from her elders. Her and her husband are extremely kind and gentle souls, supper funny too.
We actually get paid to do this. It’s Leanna Hinton’s Master Apprentice Program, Bun is Barr in Gaelic.
Project #5: The Bridge Between Us. I was also working (for the NS Gaelic community) on a new website called An Drochaid Eadarrain (wrong spelling completely) The Bridge Between Us which will highlight each area of Gaelic NS and show how unique and rich each and every place was, where the people came from, and their ways of living. My section of the project covered research on Traditional Foods and Home Remedies (YAY!). I recently stopped working on this and started teaching a yoga class.
So I’m finding existing materials and also going out and doing interviews to collect the info.
A large part of what I try to do is just get out in my community with my 2 year old daughter and speak Gaelic, it is seemingly simple, yet powerful.
You must know that the profile of Gaelic almost dissapeared completed from the map. A young person speaking Gaelic and passing it on to a todler is almost unheard of these days…people really stop and notice and ask me what projects I’m involved in, how I learned, why I learned, where I am going with it, etc.
You can say all you want about the language, but what speaks the loudest is you simply using it in your everyday life and passing it on to the next generation, simple as that.
I’ve been asked to say grace at the head table next Saturday at a supper for our community. Our community won the 2011 Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award, so at the supper will be the Lieutenant Governor. I’m am honored and very excited about this. Grace will be mostly in Gaelic with some English.
I also do milling frolic demonstrations at the Gaelic College each week for tourists, we teach them two milling songs and sit at the table and pound the cloth.
IS that It? I believe so
PLUS Single motherhood keeps me on my toes hehe
I’ve also been hosting talking circles at my house with a man leading who is initiated to do so through the North American Native tradition.
I focus firstly on my daughter, we always try and have a balanced and somewhat relaxed day, I try to stay grounded by feeding us healthy food, and pretty well first off we go outside.
I’ve been working on a trail from my house to the beach, she loves going to the ocean, and there are two brook’s on our property as well where we spend time. Each day we visit someone, usually the elders, my uncle, aunt, grandmother.
We also take a stop by the neighbours and next door at the community gathering spot the Cafe. I try and get some work done, usually more so when she’s having her noon nap. We are on the go alot, traveling here and there. I seem to be constantly in communication with people from all over.
Seriously healthy meals and cleaning the house takes up a lot of my time in the run of a day.
I try and spend 1/2 or more with Lemuria at night reading stories, winding down and singing songs. I try to meditate in the evenings, read something to Inspire me and keep me on the right track. Right now, God Calling is my favorite. I pray every night and wish i was as dedicated at chanting mantras, but I try to do that as much as possible in the evenings too. I try to maintain contact with my family who are near and far, which happens throughout the day.
Mostly I’m trying to create a day of balance, peace, love, learning, and connection for me and my daughter, that’s done through healthy food, exercise, time outside, time with family and my community and hard work.