Keeping Identity Strong and Alive

Photo of Lesley Beardy and her two children Adisyn and Alexander

Photo of Lesley Beardy and her two children Adisyn and Alexander

WINNIPEG, MB–American linguist Benjamin Whorf noted that language ‘shapes thoughts and emotions, determining one’s perception of reality’. Language is a medium of communication, which mirrors one’s identity and is an integral part of culture, and is disastrous when lost. The University of Winnipeg is currently offering free Let’s Speak Ojibwe To Our Kidsclasses for parents and children to learn together in with Elders speaking Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) at The Wii Chiiwaaknak Learning Centre to help keep the language alive.

CBC reporter Wab Kinew and his father, UWinnipeg Elder and instructor, Tobasonakwut Kinew,are among those volunteering to lead the classes that involve songs and crafts to engage their young students in learning and preserving Ojibwe.

Lesley Beardy is a mother who attends the classes with her two children Adisyn and Alexander. “We are really enjoying coming here and so do my kids,” she said. “This class has opened many opportunities and doors for me. I am in the field of education, and for my teaching practicum, I am now working with Dufferin School to create the same language class to offer at the school. I am really excited!”

“Due to the legacy of assimilation we are working on rebuilding our communities through language to replace what was lost,” explained Wab Kinew. “Language is the most important way to hang on to our identity. It celebrates our identity and reveals how our Elders see the world and it makes them happy when they hear the young people speaking it.”

ojibwe-classSharon Redsky, UWinnipeg manager of Wii Chiiwaakanak and an organizer of the classes also attends with her three year old. “The Objiwe classes have been well received by the community,” expressed Redsky. “Personally, it is heart warming to see three generations that include Wab, his father and his two young sons, participating and having fun while teaching our classes. Families have shared how it is such a positive, natural and supportive way to learn together.”

Wii Chiiwaakanak is offering Let’s Talk Ojibwe combined with Let’s Talk Science on Thursday, March 22, 2012, beginning at 6pm were families will have a chance to learn Ojibwe while performing a science experiment together..

Tobasonakwut Kinew, Elder and faculty member with Indigenous Studies offers two core graduate seminars for students in the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) in Indigenous Development program and the MA in Indigenous Governance program. His students benefit greatly from having their assumptions and world views challenged and enriched by a deep and complex understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing. By decolonizing the mind, students are open to imagining and, later, implementing development and governance strategies that are embedded in Indigenous teachings.

wab-building-a-tipeeWab Kinew is a one-of-a-kind musical talent, and exemplifies the spirit of his ancestors.  Wab is a hip-hop artist and CBC radio producer/host/reporter based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, and training in the traditional medicine ways of his Anishinaabe people.

Sharon Redsky, manager of the University’s Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, is a First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40. Before recently joining UWinnipeg, she worked for the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre as a project manager implementing Housing Plus, a partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada “AT HOME” initiative to address mental health and homelessness.

The Wii Chiiwaaknak Learning Centre opened in 2005 and is located on the main floor of the Helen Betty Osborne building. Wii Chiiwaaknak provides the community with free and open access to the RBC Community Learning Commons computers, community meeting spaces, after school homework clubs, cultural programs, services to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal inner-city children, youth, adults, seniors and their families, as well as the campus community.

The Centre is a collaborative effort between The University of Winnipeg, Southeast Resource Development Council (SERDC), and a number of local schools and community organizations with support from the Royal Bank of Canada, The North West Company, Winnipeg Foundation and other government and corporate partners.

For more information on Wii Chiiwaakanak programming and to register for classes please contact:
Sharon Redsky: 204-789-1454

Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7130, E:

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