Anishinabemowin instructor proud, hopeful as she helps pass language to next generation in Interlake

Lillian Traverse from Pinaymootang First Nation has been speaking Anishinabemowin most of her life, but there was a time in her youth when she nearly lost touch with her first language, as she was being teased by other kids for speaking it.Now, she teaches Anishinabemowin, also known as Ojibway, in the Lakeshore School Division and is helping secure the future of the language for generations to come.”It’s dying out, but to bring it back and to keep it going is something that is amazing,” Traverse said ahead of a lesson at Ashern Early Years School.Traverse got started in the division last fall and is at the school five days a week. Her teachings also include introductions to beading and soapstone carving.”It’s very interesting and exciting; the students are very engaged,” said Karen Carmichael, principal of Ashern Early Years School.WATCH | Lillian Traverse teaches kids Anishinabemowin through bingo in Ashern:Teacher in Manitoba Interlake school division protecting Anishinabemowin language from ‘dying out’ Lillian Traverse nearly lost touch with her first language of Anishinabemowin in youth amid teasing in school. Now, she’s teaching it to elementary school children in Ashern, Man.Carmichael said half of the students in the school are First Nation or Métis. “By doing this it brings a connection to their past language, their past culture, their heritage,” she said. “We have a very diverse school population…. It’s wonderful to have this community where we’re getting to learn each other’s knowledges.”On this day, Grade 4 students are learning how to count to 10 by playing a game of bingo.Karen Carmichael is principal of Ashern Early Years School. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)Classmates applaud Charles Ammann after he confidently counts from one to 10 in Anishinabemowin. He’s still trying to get the hang of how to pronounce seven and eight — niizhwaaswi and n’shwaaswi, respectively — because they “sound the same for me.””My favourite part about this is we’re learning it while we’re having fun,” he said, adding he doesn’t have anyone in his life who speaks Anishinabemowin.His classmate Roman Traverse won a round of bingo by completing his card with the word naanan — the number five in Anishinabemowin.Roman Traverse says his grandparents would be proud to know he is learning Anishinabemowin in school, alongside peers from all different backgrounds who haven’t had exposure to the language in the home as he has growing up. (Travis Golby/CBC)In previous sessions, they’ve learned animal names.”Ma’iingan is wolf … makwa is a bear and mashkode-bizhiki is buffalo,” said Roman.Roman has a leg up on some of his peers as he learned the language in the home. His family moved to the west Interlake from Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation, along the shores of Lake Winnipeg and about 230 kilometres north of Winnipeg, where “everybody knows Ojibway,” he said.Roman said his family is happy that he continues to learn Anishinabemowin in the school, “because they want me to know this when I turn older.”A student covers four spaces on their bingo card. (Travis Golby/CBC)He said it’s also fun to speak the language alongside peers from a variety of different backgrounds.Donald Nikkel, superintendent of human resources and policy at Lakeshore School Division, said the language instruction offers students an opportunity to understand “Indigenous ways of knowing and being.””There’s an incredible power to that,” he said.Ashern Early Years School at the beginning of the school day on March 20 of this year. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)In her teen years, Traverse said she noticed few of her peers were speaking Anishinabemowin. She sees a shift now.”People are more wanting to learn about it … not only the language, but the traditions and the cultures that come with First Nations people,” said Traverse.Some of her favourite words to pass on are miigwech and giga-waabamin menawaa — “thank you” and “see you again” or “see you later” in Anishinabemowin.”I just feel so proud and, like, happy that I could teach them what I know, pass it on to the next generation and they could teach their children,” said Traverse. “I’m very, very hopeful that it will continue.”Traverse says getting an opportunity to work in the school system and teach children of all backgrounds is rewarding. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)Information Radio – MB4:26Lillian Traverse nearly lost touch with her first language growing up. Now, she’s teaching Anishinabemowin to kids in school in AshernThe CBC’s Bryce Hoye visited a Grade 4 students at Ashern Early Years School last month and learned how Traverse uses games, like bingo, to cement her Anishinabemowin lessons

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