For the first time, braille is now available in Mi’kmaw

For the first time in Canada, braille is now available in an Indigenous language.

Christine Muise is currently coding a Grad 7 textbook for blind English speakers at the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority in Halifax.

“There’s a lot of cases where someone only speaks an Indigenous language in which case they would not have had an opportunity to learn braille,” said Muise.

Muise said her work started after the announcement that there are 215 suspected unmarked graves on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and that there are no Indigenous languages in Canada.

“I was touched by it, it upset me, it maddened me and I don’t know I honestly thought there wasn’t much someone like me could do from here,” she said.

“But I did hope there would be a resurgence in people wanting to regain their culture and their language and I just knew if one of them was blind and didn’t speak English of French, then they were pretty much out of luck.”

Muise said she consulted with the Mi’kmaw community including linguist Bernie Francis of Membertou First Nation.

Francis said braille will help preserve the Mi’kmaw language.

“It’s a great thing because it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have a writing system which adequately represents the sounds in the Mi’kmaw language,” said Francis. “So that fact that we are already into braille, is really a bonus for us.”

Muise has been a certified braille transcriber for the past 15 years and earned the Louis Award from the American Printing House for the Blind.

Mi’kmaw now joins Navajo as the only other Indigenous language coded into braille.

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