Ojibwe Language Immersion Program Begins 2nd Year

Lowell Elementary Adds New 1st Grade Cultural Classroom to Duluth School District

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The program began last year with a kindergarten class, and was so successful that this year they’re adding a new instructor who will teach those kids moving up to first grade.

Parents from all across Duluth are enrolling their children to help revitalize what they call a dying language.

“Sometimes there are certain situations where I’m the only Native American person there, but I’m okay in my own skin,” said Maajii Gaameyaash.

A first–language Ojibwe speaker, Gordan Jordain strongly identifies with his Native American roots.

“I smell everything in Ojibwe, I taste everything in Ojibwe, I hear everything in Ojibwe, I feel everything in Ojibwe,” he explained.

The kids call him Maajii.

“I pass along what’s always been here, before anybody else came here,” he said.

Last year, Maajii taught the first–ever language immersion kindergarten class at Lowell Elementary School.

“I speak only in Ojibwe,” Maajii told FOX 21.

He teaches his students science, social studies, math, and language arts.

Natalia is getting ready to start kindergarten with Maajii.

“It’s shown that the earlier you start learning a language, the more proficient you’ll be in it,” said Lydia Shinkle, Natalia’s mother.

Being from Fond du Lac, Shinkle says it’s important for her daughter to gain a sense of self.

“It’s a part of who she is, it’s a part of her culture.”

Dylan spent the past year in class with Maajii.

“I think it will be valuable for him to have a respect for diversity, and understand that there’s lots of different ways of looking at things and learning things, and doing things,” said Dylan’s father, Chris O’Brien.

He says his son is learning how important the Ojibwe culture is to the local community.

“It gives you a pretty good sense of place, to know who’s around you and the history of the place as well,” O’Brien added.

Along with words like ‘Boozhoo,’ which means ‘Hello.’

But Maajii says the language is just a small part of his message.

“When we understand diversity by asking questions that you’re asking me, we’re all going to get to a place where we’re all going to be accepting of diversity,” he said. “And if we start that early, beautiful.”

For students in the Lowell and Myers–Wilkins attendance areas, bus transportation is provided.

Otherwise, transportation is the responsibility of the families.

Organizers hope that eventually this will become a K through 12 program.