Thunder Bay

'At their fingertips': Ontario school board unveils unique Indigenous language, culture app

The Kenora Catholic District School Board in northwestern Ontario unveiled its brand new Anishinaabemowin Omiinigoziin app during its winter powwow Tuesday.

'Acessibility to the knowledge is of the utmost importance,' says student who provided voice for app

L to R: Darrick Baxter, Ogoki Learning Inc., Toni Kelly, Graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Sheila White, Anishinaabemowin language teacher from St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Sydney Flett, Grade 12 student from St. Thomas Aquinas High School show all the devices which can support the new Anishinaabemowin app. (Trina Henley/Kenora Catholic District School Board)

The Kenora Catholic District School Board in northwestern Ontario unveiled its brand new Anishinaabemowin Omiinigoziin app during its winter powwow Tuesday.

The app utilizes graphics and the voices of eight St. Thomas Aquinas High School students to educate people about the Anishinaabe language, traditions and culture.

"Accessibility to the knowledge is of the utmost importance," said Sydney Flett, a grade 12 student, and one of the young people featured on the app, adding that she likes that it can be used whenever, and wherever a person wants.

"People can now have it at their fingertips and it's incredible."

Students' voices were used in the pronunciation of words throughout the App. Darrick Baxter (holding the microphone) supported the students through creating the app, while teacher Sheila White (long black skirt) was also instrumental in its design. (Trina Henley/Kenora Catholic District School Board )

The name translates to mean 'the Anishinaabe language is a gift that we were given' by the Creator. It was developed in a yearlong collaboration between elders and Knowledge Keepers in the Treaty 3 territory, Sheila White — the Anishinaabemowin language teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas — and her students.

"The students nowadays are tech-savvy," said White.

"We are in the 21st century and we need to have tools available for them that would allow them to learn our language," she said, adding that parents and anyone in the community can use the app to learn alongside their children.

Elders suggested the best way to structure the app was to break it into four specific categories.

This is what the opening page of the new Anishinaabemowin Omiinigoziiwin app, developed by the Kenora Catholic District School Board, looks like. (Trina Henley/Kenora Catholic District School Board)

"Self was the first category. Survival is the second category, which speaks to sharing information such as hunting, trapping and fishing," White explained in a written release.

"The third category is life teachings about our babies, youth, adults and elders. The fourth category is the gifts we have been given such as visions, dreams, ceremonies, drums and songs."

It's hoped the app can help reinforce the language and culture, especially for people who aren't surrounded by those who speak Anishinaabemowin.

That was the case for Flett, who said she learned a great deal from the elders as they worked together to develop the app.

'So much for so many people'

"Being involved in the recording of the words, I started to pick up more of the language because I'm certainly not fluent and it increased my knowledge just by helping out and doing it," Flett said.

"So I feel like the app will do so much more for so many more people."

Students plan to continue to add new language, phrases and content to the app.

It is available to anyone on all platforms — web based; IOS, Android — and can be downloaded through http://ojibwayapp.com/niin/.

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