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.
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 didnt 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,
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
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.