Work underway to create a new generation of Anishinaabemowin speakers
Chance and Mariah King have started a program to encourage learning Ojibwe
For Chance King, speaking and learning his traditional language of Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwe means everything.
King, from Wasauksing First Nation, didn't grow up speaking the language. It's no secret that many Indigenous languages spoken in Canada are in danger of disappearing. Residential schools, the 60s Scoop and other effects of colonialism have severely damaged many languages.
But King is making it his mission to keep Objibwe alive.
"It's something that I've always felt that's been important and that's been lacking and neglected since I was a little kid," he said. "Ever since I was made fun of by my peers when I was in kindergarten for speaking the language."
Instead of shying away from his culture, King decided to embrace it and make it his mission to preserve it.
Now, he and his wife Mariah have created what they call a "language nest."
"In the hopes that one day we have little kids running around speaking the language again and not being made fun of and made to feel less than because of something of who they are," he said.
King says the details are still being worked out, but basically the program brings together Anishinaabemowin speakers with babies, young children and their parents.
He says the goal is to create an immersion environment for the children.
"So that it becomes their first language and that's what they speak naturally," he said. "Rather than how I've tried to reclaim the language. It's really difficult when it's a second language."
King says about ten fluent speakers have come forward willing to take part and share their knowledge. He says by getting families involved, the goal is to have Anishinaabemowin spoken in the nest and at home.
"By incorporating the parents so that they become proficient enough to at least hold conversations will increase the likelihood that the language is revitalized and is something you will hear in the community again," he said.
"It's basically creating a link from all of our elders and our speakers to that new generation. Basically I'm creating a space for that knowledge to be passed on."
King and his wife have managed to secure funding for the next three years from the Ontario Arts Council and the Laidlaw Foundation for the program. He says they hope to incorporate the group as a non-profit to be eligible for more funding in the future.
With files from Waubgeshig Rice