University of Manitoba students push for Indigenous language degree programs

Students at the University of Manitoba are lobbying universities to create official degree and diploma programs in Indigenous languages, one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.

Start of nationwide student campaign to implement TRC Call to Action 16

Noah Wilson is one of the brains behind the ReconciliAction campaign. The plan is make it a national campaign which pushes universities to develop Indigenous language degrees and diplomas. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Students at the University of Manitoba are lobbying universities to create official degree and diploma programs in Indigenous languages, one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.

The ReconciliAction campaign was started by Noah Wilson and the University of Manitoba Aboriginal Students Association.

"It's about bringing light to the TRC Calls to Action, and ensuring that the calls to action are being implemented," said Wilson, who is the co-president of the Aboriginal Students Association.

The campaign is launching in Winnipeg, but will be a part of a larger push later this year by the Canadian Federation of Students to get Indigenous language degree and diploma programs implemented at universities and colleges across the country.

Tuesday's launch featured separate panels that included elders, students and administrators. It also included a keynote address by the University of Manitoba president David Barnard.

The afternoon featured an elders panel. They were able to talk about residential schools and why language revitalization is important to Indigenous communities. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Barnard praised the campaign saying that the preservation of Indigenous languages is critical and that the university is committed to addressing Call to Action 16 at the U of M.

"We already have some [Indigenous language] courses in place," said Barnard. 

"We're advertising for faculty so we will be increasing what we're doing."

Language revitalization

Aandeg Muldrew, 19, is a sessional instructor at the University of Manitoba, teaching Intro to Ojibway.

"Language is an important part of who we are," said Muldrew.

"The TRC is addressing those things that have been taken away, and mainly one of those things was the language."

Muldrew started learning the language at age nine from his grandmother, Patricia Ningewance.

He said that his father wasn't taught the language because his grandma was "blocked" from teaching him, an act that he blames on the effects of colonization.

Aandeg Muldrew teaches an Intro to Ojibway course at the University of Manitoba. He is excited at the prospect of having a post secondary Indigenous language program in Manitoba. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Although he is a language teacher, he admits that he is still learning, and he's happy that he's able to pass the language on to other people.

He said he is excited about the possibility of having Indigenous language programs at a university level, but he wishes that Indigenous language degrees were already available.