In Hayward, Wisconsin, a program is working to preserve Native American language and culture in the state and across the world.
Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute is an immersion school where the Ojibwe language isn’t only taught, it’s the language used to teach all core classes.
Waadookodaading means “a place where people help each other,” and the name is apt. The school’s mission and activities reach far beyond its own facility, and even past the borders of the state.
Executive Director Brooke Ammann explained Waadookodaading was a founding member of the National Coalition of Native American Language Schools & Programs. That group is made up of schools and programs in 16 states that use an indigenous language as the language of instruction for at least half of the classes offered in the targeted grades.
“We share with each other when we need support, not just in any of the policy fields, but also in planning and sharing best practices that we have all developed over time with our programs,” Ammann said, adding that coalition members “share knowledge, resources. At times, we also will review any upcoming federal policies to see if they align with the Native American Languages Act of 1990. It’s a law that protects the right to use our native languages in educational settings.”
Ojibwe and other Native American languages didn’t decline naturally. Federal policy aimed to wipe them out. For example, an 1868 Report of the Indian Peace Commissioners stated “schools should be established, which children should be required to attend; their barbarous dialect should be blotted out and the English language substituted.”
Read more: WPR