Prof upholds Maliseet stories, language in new book

Professor emeritus Andrea Bear Nicholas has taken part in the creation of a book called Glooskap and Other Old Stories Told by Maliseet Elders. While you might be interested in reading it, the book is all told in the Maliseet language in an attempt to preserve the stories in their original format.

The release of the book, which took place Friday, is a huge achievement for Nicholas as it has been in progress since 1969.

“It does feel wonderful. Partly because I know we can work on the others [now],” she said.

This is only the first book in a series which will tell stories about the St. John River, and stories which tell the teachings of Maliseet elders.

“Most of these storytellers were born around the 1900s. And for the ones who were collecting information from their own ancestors, it’s an invaluable record,” she said.

Much of the information gathered since 1969 has been collected from the grandsons of these storytellers, as well as reel-to-reel tapes from museums.

Victor Atwin, the grandchild of one of the storytellers in the book, said he still remembers being told some of the stories.

“She told them to me growing up as a child,” he said. “It’s a big accomplishment and I see it as a big success for people telling the stories at the time. I never thought it would get to this point where there was actually a book written about the legends they were telling.”

He said many of the stories have teaching anyone could relate to.

“It’s a reflection of wisdom, of the old people,” he said.

“Each one of these stories has a moral, or a life teaching in some sense.”

He also said that if the book was translated into English, it would have an ever wider appeal.

“There would be a lot more appreciation for the environment at large. A lot more appreciation for your fellow man.”

Nicholas, however, said that’s not exactly the point of this version of the book.

“Even for our own people trying to learn the language, they would just read the English if it was there,” she said.

“I wanted it to be an incentive for people to go to grandma or grandpa and say, ‘Help me with this.’”

Nonetheless, Atwin said it’s been a pleasure to not only see the book release, but be able to become friends with Nicholas.

“I don’t think anyone would have been able to pull this off like she did.”

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