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Having fun with Anishinabemowin revival program

Thursday November 25, 2010

Fort William’s Beverly Bannon is putting fun into her Anishinabemowin revitalization program.

“That’s how all my classes are, every class I have ever done, I go there and just have fun,” Bannon said about her twice-a-week language revitalization program, which is funded by Fort William First Nation. “I learn the language myself more fluently — like I’m starting to think Ojibwe and speak better Ojibwe by having these classes.”

Bannon said everyone is welcome to attend the language revitalization program, which is held Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6-7 p.m. at the Fort William First Nation Community Centre.

“There are six or seven people who speak fluent Ojibwe (in the community),” Bannon said. “It’s like a dying language. I think it’s because we are so close to town, but that is no excuse. We need to put excuses aside and just do it.”

Fort William First Nation is located along the southern side of Thunder Bay’s city limits.

Bannon said the language revitalization program requires a lot of hard work, but she enjoys every second of it.

“It started with just Tuesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” Bannon said. “But I was finding the two hours too long and the week went by too long, so I broke the two hours up during the week.”

Bannon focuses on song and play during her classes.

“They are learning through play and hands-on,” Bannon said. “Anishinabe people, they’re visual learners as well as hands-on learners, so that is why I have everything hands-on, because that is how I learn the best.”

Bannon even posts Anishinabemowin words all over her home because she finds that is the way she learns best.

“That is why we are doing labels,” Bannon said. “We’re labelling everything and inviting Elders in, the ones that actually speak fluent Ojibwe.”

Bannon is currently planning field trips to give her students an opportunity to visit with Elders who speak the language fluently.

“They want to raise money and go on field trips,” Bannon said. “They could immerse themselves (in Anishinabemowin) that way — that’s how I did it.”

Bannon is also considering a gathering of fluent Elders and Anishinabemowin students to encourage more sharing of the language.

“I can bring a lot of people together, Elders, youth,” Bannon said. “Gatherings, I go to them all the time.”

Bannon began the language revitalization program this past July and is looking to apply for further funding to keep going after her current funding ends this upcoming March.

“I wanted to do this since I was three, I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn’t know I could be an Ojibwe teacher,” Bannon said, explaining her father Richard Bannon was a teacher in Thunder Bay for about 26 years.

Although Bannon didn’t learn Anishinabemowin when she was a child, she now teaches her grandchildren Anishinabemowin as much as possible.

“I talk Ojibwe to my grandsons all the time,” Bannon said. “And they stop whatever they do and their little eyeballs look right at me when I speak Ojibwe and they understand. They know exactly what I’m saying.”

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Keep up the good work. I'm a

Keep up the good work. I'm a non-native living in Hamilton, Ontario, and I'm learning Anishinabemowin too. It's a huge part of our Canadian identity and heritage. 30,000 plus years of our history is encoded in this language, and it's an enormous shame if we let it die because our generation is too lazy to do a bit of intellectual work. I think our Native languages need to be recognized as "National Historic Treasures" or something like this by law - at least as a kind of official declaration of their importance, like how we recognize lacrosse as our official national summer sport. Remember, bilingualism makes us better at both languages. This fact has always been recognized, universally. Anishinabemowin, if we don't preserve it, who will? The ancient spirit of this part of the world will be lost. It's not an either-or conundrum. English is great, with an amazing history and body of literature. But, Anishinabemowin is also great and it's indigenous to here, and it has a different spirit than English, a spirit we can only access through the language. Keep up the good work!

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