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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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An Ojibwe Immersion Story
by Mille Lacs Messenger

Last March the Mille Lacs Band Niigaan Youth program was approached by Chris Nayquonabe, the Onamia Public School Indian Education Coordinator. The Niigaan Youth Program services K-12 for both public and tribal schools. They provide after-school help during the year, and continue to aid students throughout the summer. Chris Nayquonabe and Byron Ninham, the Niigaan program director, had planned to use the Immersion grounds in Rutledge for a summer camp, and started to work on a schedule. The camp took place July 15-17 at the Mille Lacs Anishinaabe Izhitwaawin Immersion grounds.

A total of 12 overnight campers came from Nay Ah Shing, Isle, Onamia and one student from Canada. There were four students from McGregor Public Schools and one from Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy in McGregor, which attended July 17.

The students learned the language, traditional and modern lacrosse games, beading, and listened to speakers. The students mostly worked on introductions, which opened the Ojibwe language to them. John Benjamin used pictures and repetition to instill the language with the kids. Ninham hopes that the lessons in language helped spark something in the younger kids that will help them utilize the language.

The guest speakers were Joe Nayquonabe Sr. and Larry “Amik” Smallwood. Nayquonabe focused on growing up on Mille Lacs, his path in life, veteran services, the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the importance of educating the Ojibwe people today. Smallwood focused on the ceremonies of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and how important the language is to it.

By the end of the three days the kids didn’t want to leave. Not only was it a learning experience but a growing one as well. They were exposed to positive attention, and the community as well.

“The time is now for language and vitalization, for the seventh generation.” Ninham said. “ The time is now, the present. As every day goes by we lose fluent speakers, the language is on life-support,”

They hope to continue similar programs for each season, not just the summer months. They want the kids to use what they learned to help them in the Ojibwe Knowledge Bowl team. Ninham hopes that these lessons will build their language skills and at least one of them will come back and become a language teacher.

This event was in partnership with Anishinaabe Izhitwaanin, Niigaan Community and Youth Program, and the Onamia Public School Indian Education Program to further educational learning through culture.

“It was amazing to see the students confidence grow throughout the week.” Chris Nayquonabe said. ”In the beginning they stumbled through pronunciation by the end they were helping each other, teaching each other, We look forward to offering more events like this in the future through this partnership.”

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