Manitoba announces 'historic' aboriginal language partnership

A new partnership between the Manitoba government, indigenous groups, post-secondary institutions and school boards will seek to “protect and promote” aboriginal languages, the province announced Monday.
Winnipeg School Division students working on a human rights art project. On Monday the Manitoba government announced a partnership with several education institutions, including the Winnipeg School Division, to create a new aboriginal language partnership. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

A new partnership between the Manitoba government, indigenous groups, post-secondary institutions and school boards will seek to "protect and promote" aboriginal languages, the province announced Monday.

The new Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy is based on recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report.

"Language is a critical component of cultural identity, and the Manitoba government recognizes the importance of working with our partners in the indigenous community to protect and promote aboriginal languages," said Education and Advanced Learning Minister, James Allum, in Monday's news release.

The partnership will include institutions such as Red River College, Winnipeg School Division, Seven Oaks School Division, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre and the University College of the North. Among the goals is to improve teacher training and develop a system for sharing and expertise related to Manitoba's aboriginal languages.

"We believe by partnering we can move forward on a needed cause. Retention of language is so important for our First Nations," said Lorne Keeper, executive director of the Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre.

"Our languages are dying very quickly," he added.

Keeper hopes the partnership will create new curriculums and programs in schools to target the next generation.

"That's why the Winnipeg school divisions are so important," Keeper told CBC, "All students, and non-native students as well, should be able to have the option of studying a First Nation language."

Keeper would like to see classrooms in Manitoba offer courses in the main indigenous languages, in particular: the Cree, Dene, Ojibwe, Dakota and Oji-Cree languages.

The first step will be teaching teachers to become certified language instructors, Keeper said. 

"It's not going to happen over night, it's a slow process," he admitted, "That's where University College of the North will come in because they will be key to this strategy in training."


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