Wisconsin tribe works to teach Ojibwe language to next generation

Language preservation effort involves entire community

Young children in the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribe will soon have more opportunities to learn their native Ojibwe tongue from tribal elders as part of a language preservation grant from HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

The Bayfield, Wisc. tribe will receive its second consecutive grant from ACF’s Administration for Native Americans (ANA) to help increase the number of Native Americans fluent in Ojibwe, which has dwindled over the years. The grant allows the Red Cliff Early Childhood Center Head Start Program to hire a language instructor and assistant to work with children in their three Head Start classrooms. In addition, they will work with the Bayfield School District as they plan an Ojibwe Language Immersion Charter School for fall 2015.

In order to involve the entire community, the Red Cliff Early Childhood Center will provide financial support for elders who participate in the program through the foster grandparent program. It will also provide incentives to parents with perfect attendance at language learning activities at the center.

“During our recent tribal consultation in July, tribal leaders expressed that preserving and revitalizing their native languages is a priority,” said ANA Commissioner Lillian Sparks.  “Developing a language program is challenging and requires a tremendous amount of commitment and participation, particularly among elders, who may be some of the few fluent speakers of the native language.”

ANA will award approximately $4.1 million in new grants designed to preserve Native American language and culture. Preservation projects help promote cultural awareness by developing language curricula, training and certifying language instructors, and offering intergenerational mentoring activities between youth and elders.

This includes 13 projects funded through the Preservation and Maintenance program, which provides grants for curriculum development, teacher training and technology used to disseminate and preserve Native American languages. Another six grants in the Esther Martinez Immersion program provide funds for immersion-based language training.

In addition to these 19 new language grants, ANA will award more than $9 million to 40 grantees continuing multi-year projects.

For more details and descriptions of ANA’s language grants, please visit the ANA website.