Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion Program
Niigaane Ojibwe Immersion School was developed in 2003 to revitalize the Ojibwe language on the Leech Lake Reservation. It began with Adrian Liberty and others who hoped to build the program out one year at a time, starting with the youngest students at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School and making the immersion program a school within a school. The idea was not to focus on teaching Ojibwe but rather to use the language as the medium of instruction in all subjects.
The immersion school’s success was enabled by a clever reallocation of existing personnel and resources. Tribal elder and fluent speaker Mark Wakonabo, who had served for decades as janitor at the school, used his talent to teach alongside Liberty in the immersion school. Several other elders and community members volunteered their time to help teach the children. As tribal and grant support trickled in, more paid positions were created. The staff was challenged by a lack of published resources as they scrambled to write lesson plans, develop curriculum, and administer the program, sometimes staying only days ahead of the students’ progress. Their hard work has yielded the intended result: the language naturally rolls off students’ tongues, and recognition of and support for the school continue to grow.
(excerpt from The People of Minnesota: Ojibwe in Minnesota by Anton Treuer)
Heather Brittain - Waabano-anang
Amanda Norman - Director