Mary Ginnish – Reclaiming the Mi’gmaq Language and Culture

Year: 2021 — Province: New Brunswick
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Natoaganeg School
Grades K to 8 – Mi’gmaq Language and Culture
Eel Ground, New Brunswick


“Eel Ground First Nations School never has “just Mary” as a teacher. They have a person possessing the rich history of a thousand years of ancestry and knowledge. Because of the extensive network she has formed, they have an entire community of expertise embodied in the person of Mary Ginnish.”


Teaching Approach

Mary is a teacher who is continuously breaking new ground. She is motivated by her deep passion for reclaiming the Mi’gmaq language with all of the knowledge it encompasses – preserving it and passing it to her students and her community. Her work is based on the understanding of how crucial this is for cultural identity and for the well-being of its individuals.

In the Classroom

Mary is an innovator in the classroom. Her teaching techniques include hands-on, outdoor, on the land learning opportunities for her students including medicine picking, dancing, drumming, beading, Mi’gmaq waltes game tournaments, story telling and residential survivor walks. Within this process, she always acknowledges student achievement and success, and nurtures the acquisition of skills and knowledge for all students, leaving no one behind.

Mary has a premise that guides her work in the classroom: the teacher needs to see and consider the complete child - an individual with their own background, strength and challenges. One needs to take into account the family situation, the historical and cultural background and the place in the community. This is coupled with a deep respect for other cultures – a delicate balance between instilling an Indigenous culture and the need for preparing students for the world of higher education and employment. Mary has the unique ability to provide individual attention and nurturing in this complex reality.

Outstanding achievements

Mary is a leader in education. Almost all teachers start with an established curriculum with all the didactic tools already developed and available. This was not the case at Natoaganeg School. From the outset of her career, she has taken up the challenge of finding culturally suitable material to support her teaching. She developed her own teaching tools where none were available. At the same time she continued her professional development to remain current with ever evolving teaching practices and tailored this knowledge to the specific needs of her students. Mary is a singular contributor to the vitality and to the sustainability of the Mi’gmaq language and culture.

Mary has a clear understanding that reclaiming her Mi’gmaq language and culture is an undertaking that goes way beyond school activities. For instance, Mary has single handily planned and delivered Mi’gmaq language classes since 1996 to encourage parents and former Natoaganeg School students to continue learning and growing their language. She has mentored other language instructors who are now providing Mi’gmaq instruction not only to the school, but also to the community and to a number of band programs.

Get in touch!

Natoaganeg School
11 Riverview Road East    
Eel Ground, NB  E1V 4G6