Growing up Mi’kmaq, Savvy Simon was always told that her language was in danger, and realized that although she spoke it, many other young people had never been given the opportunity to learn. In her early-20s, Simon taught Mi’kmaq language to youth in Nova Scotia, and her students requested that she started doing videos. Savvy set up a Youtube channel, and started the #speakmikmaq movement encouraging people to use her nation’s words on social media.
Watching Simon’s videos is uplifting and inspiring, as she spreads messages of hope and positivity in her community and beyond. It hasn’t been easy though — she has dealt with plenty of online bullies and trolls. We wanted to find out more about Simon’s motivations, the challenges involved in her work, and how this has changed since she became a mom (her son is 17 months old).
Why did you start doing what you do?
A lot of kids didn’t get the opportunity that I did to learn Mi’kmaq as their first language. I kept hearing how my language was disappearing and I’d get this sinking feeling, like I was so powerless but I had to try and do something. I felt like I wasn’t contributing. Then I started teaching classes, and it was the students that motivated me to do this.
What does this work bring to your life?
It gives me so much fulfillment to think that the next generation are going to have the opportunity to read and speak their language, and to keep it alive. It gives me hope, but also we’re having fun with it too, and that’s important. There’s so much serious stuff in the world, we need to make this fun so that it engages people.
Why is this work important?
There’s not that many people doing it, and my main drive has been to inspire other nations to start up a hashtag for their own languages. I want to see people using #speakcree, #speakojibwe #lakota, and share their languages, songs, and jokes on social media. It is happening, people are doing it, and it is so cool to see how one idea has started this ripple effect across North America.
Has parenthood changed how you view your work?
It has brought challenges in terms of juggling my time and priorities, but having a son has made my feeling regarding my cultural responsibility to help him learn his language even stronger. It really does put that into perspective for me.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other parents about working/living with purpose?
Take time for yourself, make sure that you build yourself up with that positive self talk so that you are reminding yourself that you are here for your purpose, that you’ve got goals and big dreams. It is still possible to be a rock star and a parent and the same time, even though it feels hard in the day to day.
What do you think you have in common with other moms?
There’s always a challenge in parent life, and I have to remind myself often that this is temporary, and him being this small and demanding won’t last forever. I love it when other moms are so real and honest about their struggles, because that’s how we are going to connect more in motherhood and not feel so alone, and feel like this is possible.
What’s been hardest about what you do?
I get criticism about what I do and have had to deal with a fair amount of online bullying, because not everyone gets it, but I think I’ve been doing this for long enough that people know I’m not going to stop, and nothing they say can phase me. Before I became a mom I got into the habit of ignoring the noise and the nonsense, and that has served me well.
What other moms do you admire?
There are so many moms that I admire, but especially moms with big families. I can’t believe that my grandmother had 19 kids, and my mom was number 15. Now that I have one child I think, “How is that even possible?” There’s a Youtuber, who goes by the name A Farmhouse Full, who has eight kids and homeschools them, and still rocks full makeup every day with a smoky eye and everything. There are some days I’m lucky when I get to brush my teeth!
The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Come join us on Facebook.