Thunder Bay

Ontario tribal council starting initiative to preserve, better teach 'language of spirit'

A tribal council in Treaty 3 territory in northwestern Ontario is starting an initiative aimed at preserving and better teaching the Anishinaabe language throughout schools it runs.

Program will hear from elders, speakers to compile, document Anishinaabe language

Don Morrison is the executive director of Bimose Tribal Council in northwestern Ontario. (http://www.bimose.ca)

A tribal council in the far western part of northwestern Ontario is starting an initiative aimed at preserving and better teaching the Anishinaabe language throughout schools it runs.

"We're looking at the Anishinaabe language in the Treaty 3 territory and we're looking to bring together our communities, our elders, our speakers and our parents," said Don Morrison, the executive director of Bimose Tribal Council, which provides education and other social services to 10 communities.

"[They'll] start putting together, compiling, documenting and preserving our language."

The end result will be the creation of teaching aids, including flash cards, that will be used in several schools that the tribal council runs, Morrison said.

"Many of our elders often refer to our language as a language of spirit," he said. "It describes our connection to creation and those teachings need to be passed on to students and others, of course, the youth to help with identity and their own success."

Bimose runs schools in a number of Treaty 3 First Nations as well as Kiizhik School, an Anishinaabe immersion school in Kenora.

Teaching tools to be ready by fall, 2018

Over the next several months, a program coordinator will work with "language holders, the knowledge keepers" in various communities to gather as much information as possible, Morrison said.

The initiative will also make use of "language bowls" run by Bimose, gatherings which encourages students to use the Anishinaabe language through activities and sharing.

"It will be very focused on how the language is spoken within Treaty 3 territory," Morrison said.

The provincial Ministry of Education has committed about $280,000 from the Indigenous Languages Fund toward the efforts, he said, adding that the next step will be to secure a coordinator who will work with communities and elders.

Morrison said the goal is to have the teaching tools ready for use in the schools by fall.

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