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Wpg Free Press: U of M takes step to revitalize Indigenous languages

September 3, 2019 — 

The following column from Niigaan Sinclair, currently on sabbatical from the University of Manitoba, was published in the Winnipeg Free Press: 

This school year, for the first time in the University of Manitoba’s 142-year history, four Indigenous languages will be available for students to learn.

For years, multiple levels of Ojibwe and Cree have been taught in the Department of Native Studies, but — due to demands from students and Indigenous leaders — two more have been added: Michif and Dakota.

“Indigenous languages are the best way for us to understand Indigenous cultures and communities,” Native Studies Department head Cary Miller says. “It’s an exciting time.”

It’s been a long road for my department — our 45th year, the second oldest Native Studies program in the country. We’ve taught Indigenous languages since our beginning, but we still haven’t done one thing we dream to do: produce a fluent speaker.

We’ll take a step towards that this year though.

It’s long been said that languages shape the way people think about, act and interact with the world.

For Indigenous communities, languages are integral to identity, cultural continuity and survival as nations. Language, of course, is not the only expression of a people but is often one of the most important.

Read the full column from Niigaan Sinclair here.



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