• By Calli Delsman

Ojibwe language course now offered at Minot State

Minot State is offering a new language course, LANG 299: Ojibwe, this spring. Ojibwe is an indigenous language of North America, used today by mostly Chippewa elders over the age of 70, and is becoming severely endangered.

Alex DeCoteau, a 2019 MSU grad, took the initiative to add this course to the university catalog and he’s also the instructor of the course. DeCoteau noticed a decline in schools of young students not being taught their indigenous language and culture due to the lack of certified teachers. By creating this course, he hopes to increase the awareness of the Ojibwe culture.

Daniel Conn, Minot State associate professor of teacher education and Master of Education program director, is taking the course this semester. After working with DeCoteau on research projects about the Ojibwe language, he was interested in learning more and helping keep the culture alive.

“I am working with Alex on a project we call Miskwaange Curriculum. Based on Ojibwe teachings — such as Gaa-Onji-Dakwaanowed Makwa (How Bear Got a Short Tail), and Gaa-Onji-Odashwaanid Mikinaak (How Turtle Got a Shell) — Miskwaange Curriculum integrates art, reading, science, social studies, and writing to form an ecological curriculum for elementary students,” Conn said.

By working with DeCoteau, there’s hope that more people will be interested in learning about Ojibwe to help keep the culture flourishing. DeCoteau believes that MSU is a perfect platform to integrate this course and successfully achieve their goal.

Not only is this course for people interested in teaching Ojibwe, but also for anyone interested in seeing the world through a different scope.

“I believe this course is helpful because it provides a new lens to see the world through, and, ecologically speaking, I think the Ojibwe language can help us to live more sustainably and honor the Earth,” Conn said. “This course has opened my eyes to new ways of making sense of Mother Earth and our older brothers and sisters — animals, birds, and fish.”

This course isn’t just for people tied to the Ojibwe culture; it can benefit anyone. It’s also important that different cultures are kept alive so that younger generations can remember their roots and how their culture was different to others. All cultures are important to keep diversity around the world.

“I have come to know the Ojibwe language through Alex and Annette Mennem of the MSU Native American Cultural Center. In collaboration with Alex, Annette, and other friends, we established the Red and Green School, which is a community garden located across from MSU and is based on Native gardening traditions,” Conn said. “Through these experiences, I have gained a great deal of respect for traditions — including language — and hope these new understandings will help me to do a better job of honoring Mother Earth as well as our older brothers and sisters. Furthermore, I believe the Ojibwe language is a profound pedagogy that can help us humans to live.”

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