The Wolastoqiyik,or Maliseet, are an Algonquian-speaking Native American/First Nations/Aboriginal people of the Wabanaki Confederacy. They are the Indigenous people of the Saint John River valley and its tributaries, between New Brunswick, Quebec, and Maine. Today Maliseet people have also migrated to other parts of the world.
Although generally known in English as the Maliseet or Malecite, their autonym is Wolastoqiyik. They are known in French as Malécites or Étchemins (the latter collectively referring to the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy, both Eastern Algonquian-speaking groups.)
They called themselves Wolastoqiyik after the Wolastoq River at the heart of their territory. (In English it is commonly known as the St. John River.) Wolastoq means "Beautiful River". Wolastoqiyik means "People of the Beautiful River," in Maliseet.
The term Maliseet is the exonym by which the Mi'kmaq people referred to this group when speaking about them to early Europeans. Maliseet was a Mi'kmaq word meaning "broken talkers" or "lazy speakers". Although the Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq languages are closely related, the name expressed what the Mi'kmaq perceived as a sufficiently different dialect to be called a "broken" version of their own language.
Today, within New Brunswick, approximately 3,000 Maliseet live within the Madawaska, Tobique, Woodstock, Kingsclear, Saint Mary's and Oromocto First Nations. There are also 600 in the Houlton Band in Maine and 1200 in the Viger First Nation in Quebec. An unknown number of 'off-reserve' Wolastoqiyik live in other parts of the world.
About 650 native speakers of Maliseet remain, and about 1,000 of Passamaquoddy, living on both sides of the border between New Brunswick and Maine. Most are older, although some young people have begun studying and preserving the language. The number of speakers is seen to have potentially stabilized. An active program of scholarship on the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy language takes place at the Mi'kmaq - Maliseet Institute at the University of New Brunswick, in collaboration with the native speakers. David Francis Sr., a Passamaquoddy elder living in Sipayik, Maine, has been an important resource for the program. The Institute has the goal of helping Native American students master their native languages. Linguist Philip LeSourd has done extensive research on the language.