The Winnipeg School Division says it has already at least 80 students registered for a new program that will teach the Cree and Ojibwa languages starting this fall.
Several dozen parents attended an open house at Isaac Brock School on Tuesday evening to learn more about the bilingual program.
"We have 80 registrations for kindergarten — about 40 in Cree and about 40 in Ojibwa," said Robert Riel, the school division's director of aboriginal education.
"I'm very happy about the numbers, and 40 is a lot but I think that the community has stepped up and we're hoping to even get more."
Chantel St. Germaine says her four-year-old daughter, Star, is already looking forward to starting kindergarten this September.
"She excited. You know, I tell her, 'You're starting a language program and you're going to be learning about your culture and your language,'" said St. Germaine.
"For my daughter to be Oji-Cree and to have a program like this is amazing," she added. "I want her to be in her culture, I want her to learn her language, and this is just a great opportunity."
Registration deadline is Jan. 31
Last month, Winnipeg School Division trustees approved the new language program, which will teach students how to speak, read and write in the two indigenous languages.
Parents have until Jan. 31 to register their children for the program this fall.
Kindergarten classes will be taught entirely in Ojibwa and Cree, while students in Grades 1 to 6 will spend half their days learning in English and the other half in Cree and Ojibwa.
Elder Myra Laramee said if a similar program was offered when she was in elementary school, she would not have been afraid to speak her language.
"I still have never overcome the fear of being ridiculed and teased like I was when I was a child, and I think that's something that these children are never, ever going to have to go through," she said.
Laramee, who was a teacher for decades, added that she believes the program is the start of something new.
"We dream, we pray and we ceremony, and if we're going to make things happen, then we just have to stand up and make it happen," she said.