sage drying in the background, host Rosanna Deerchild listens
to a Grade 3/4 class at Riverbend School as they count to
10 in Anishinaabemowin. (Jaydon Flett/CBC)
School principal Fortunato Lim said there's a waiting list
for their Ojibway language program. (Jaydon Flett/CBC)
The sound of kids learning the Ojibway language fills the hallways
at École Riverbend Community School in Winnipeg.
Singing, speaking and playing in Ojibway, or Anishinaabemowin,
is part of the bilingual curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 4
students at this school.
"We're noticing that a lot of kids don't have
a connection to their cultural background. We are noticing that
a lot of people are losing the language," said vice-principal
"That connection to home and to your family
is really important so we wanted to revive that.We wanted to hold
on to the language. We wanted to encourage the children to be speaking
their language and families as well."
are taught using games like The Feeling Game where they name
the feeling in the language. (Jaydon Flett/CBC)
The bilingual program was introduced last September, but principal
Fortunato Lim said it's been so popular they've had to start a waiting
"We have many of the families outside of our division even,
that are wanting to come in. Some have moved into our community
just to be part of the Ojibway program."
The school currently has three fluent speakers and a cultural
teacher who is learning along with the students.
He said the program was created after elder Mary Courchene and
Kevin Lamoureux, associate vice-president of Indigenous Affairs
at the University of Winnipeg, spoke to educators about the importance
of revitalizing the language.
Barker teaches Anishinaabemowin to a Grade 3 and 4 class using
music and play. (Jaydon Flett/CBC)
But Lim said finding enough teachers that are both fluent in
the language and can teach is a challenge. In fact, in the program's
first year there was no curriculum so the teachers were at the forefront
in creating it. Lim said choosing which of three dialects to build
a common curriculum around is another challenge.
Despite the challenges, Lim said the ultimate goal is to offer
Indigenous language all the way up to grade 12.
"So when the kids graduate from high school they have the
language from kindergarten to grade 12. We know that it is just
going to continue to grow."
Lamoureux said the kids are proud and love learning and sharing
the language with their families.
"They're excited about it and it makes them feel a sense
of belonging here at school, to be learning something together and
to be reclaiming that."