[lg policy] Wisconsin School Works To Keep Native American Languages Alive Around The World

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Oct 7 16:05:08 EDT 2017


Wisconsin School Works To Keep Native American Languages Alive Around The
World
Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute Not Only Teaches Ojibwe, It Is
The Language Of Instruction
By Judith Siers-Poisson
Monday, October 2, 2017, 4:35pm
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Slideshow: Native American Children Learn About Sugaring Tradition
<https://www.wpr.org/native-american-children-learn-about-sugaring-tradition>
Listen To Native American Children Learn Oneida, Ojibwe, Menominee Languages
<https://www.wpr.org/listen-native-american-children-learn-oneida-ojibwe-menominee-languages>
First Wisconsinites: Dispatches From Native American Life In Wisconsin Today
<https://www.wpr.org/series/first-wisconsinites>

In Hayward, Wisconsin, a program is working to preserve Native American
language and culture in the state and across the world.

Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute
<http://www.lco-nsn.gov/waadookodaading.php> is an immersion
school where the Ojibwe language isn't only taught, it's the language used
to teach all core classes.

Waadookodaading means "a place where people help each other," and the name
is apt. The school's mission and activities reach far beyond its own
facility, and even past the borders of the state.

Executive Director Brooke Ammann explained Waadookodaading was a founding
member of theNational Coalition of Native American Language Schools &
Programs <http://www.ncnalsp.org/>. That group is made up of schools and
programs in 16 states that use an indigenous language as the language of
instruction for at least half of the classes offered in the targeted grades.

"We share with each other when we need support, not just in any of the
policy fields, but also in planning and sharing best practices that we have
all developed over time with our programs," Ammann said, adding that
coalition members "share knowledge, resources. At times, we also will
review any upcoming federal policies to see if they align with the Native
American Languages Act of 1990
<http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/101/s2167/text>. It's a law that
protects the right to use our native languages in educational settings."

Ojibwe and other Native American languages didn't decline naturally.
Federal policy aimed to wipe them out. For example, an 1868 Report of the
Indian Peace Commissioners
<http://www.ncnalsp.org/know-the-laws/>stated "schools
should be established, which children should be required to attend; their
barbarous dialect should be blotted out and the English language
substituted."

Native American children were sent to boarding schools beginning in the
1870s, and often weren't allowed to return to their families and
communities when school wasn't in session. While the Indian Reorganization
Act of 1934
<https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title25/html/USCODE-2011-title25-chap14-subchapV.htm>
mandated boarding
schools be phased out, many remained open into the 1960s and even 1970s.

Given that history, creating an appropriate curriculum and framework was
challenging.

"So, what we've learned in our work is we've had to reach out and look at
models," Ammann said. "Some of the first models that our founders looked at
were in New Zealand, in Wales the Welsh language, Gaelic, like there's many
models in the world of kind of less commonly taught or spoken languages."

"And we looked at different efforts that were happening. And that also
brought us to our relationship with the native Hawaiian group within the
United States <http://mokuolahonua.com/> as well. So we really looked all
over the place for the best ways to revitalize and teach indigenous
languages."

The most natural way to learn a language is to grow up hearing and speaking
it. Waadookodaading attempts to replicate that by using only Ojibwe in
teaching preschool through third grade. This means all of the children are
bilingual in English and Ojibwe, since they are likely growing up in
English-speaking homes. As Ammann wrote for "The Ways
<http://theways.org/story/waadookodaading>," "By the end of kindergarten,
most students at Waadookodaading know two alphabets and writing systems."

Language is key to identity, but so is learning cultural traditions.

"Language alone does not convey or connect people to culture. It is a
medium through which culture can be learned," Ammann wrote. She added that
"Ojibwemowin, the Ojibwe language, is a language of action. In the Ojibwe
worldview, there are two ways to learn: by observing and by doing."

At Waadookodaading, students and staff learn traditional activities
like turning maple sap into maple sugar together, and older students help
teach younger students, which echoes how many traditions have been handed
down for centuries.

According to the National Coalition of Native American Language Schools &
Programs, "the Native American Languages Act (1990) established federal
policy to allow the use of Native American languages as the medium of
instruction, and affirms the right of Native American children to express
themselves, be educated, and assessed in their languages."

While this represents progress, the coalition goes on to state that there
is uneven application of the act within the U.S. Department of Education.

"I think it really is important to remember that speaking Ojibwe, or
practicing our culture, was outlawed in the not-so-distant past. I was born
in the '70s, and the freedom of religion for Native Americans was at the
end of the '70s," Ammann said. "So even when I was born, some of those
things were legally prohibited."

"And I think a lot of what we deal with today is people suffering from
shame from some of the trauma inflicted within families and our communities
by those efforts. And we know it’s one of the reasons American Indian
students still struggle with this kind of mainstream English-only focus in
our education. So our efforts, normalizing Ojibwe language and education,
it’s part of our effort really to empower, engage, students, families those
who have been disenfranchised by the mainstream American education system."

*This story is part of a week-long series called First Wisconsinites:
Dispatches From Native American Life In Wisconsin Today
<https://www.wpr.org/series/first-wisconsinites>. Stories explore
everything from education to politics to art and more and **can be heard on
Central Time and online at wpr.org <http://wpr.org/>.*

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