Canada’s University of Winnipeg has created an Ojibway radio drama to fill the gap left when Indigenous community language courses were put on hold due to the pandemic.
The new series, Aakoziiwigamig: An Ojibwe Radio Drama, is broadcast on Native Communications Incorporated (NCI FM) radio, with episodes also available at the University of Winnipeg’s Office of Indigenous Engagement website.
Lorena Fontaine, the University of Winnipeg’s Indigenous academic lead, says the program originated from a desire to sustain Ojibway language use for students after community classes through the school’s Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Center and Indigenous Languages of Manitoba were canceled due to the pandemic.
“I was concerned that students who were taking Indigenous language classes at the university now had nowhere to go and practice in the community speaking the language,” said Fontaine. She has been working with NCI FM General Manager David McLeod on the series since its summer launch.
The University of Winnipeg is also developing an Indigenous language program, and Fontaine hopes to incorporate the radio drama and include students.
“We need more places to hear and practice the language,” she said. “I can see this being an important component to our language program, and we could get students in the production in the future.”
The 10-minute audio drama segments will air each second Wednesday until June 2021. Fontaine said there will be a teaching session before each episode to highlight key words and to increase listener engagement for non-Ojibway speakers.
The drama’s script was written by Patricia Ningewance, a leader in Ojibway teaching and translation in Canada. She was inspired by the hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy to set the series in a hospital. “Pat also thought a dialogue in a hospital would accommodate different dialects, because we have a number of Ojibway speakers with different dialects in Winnipeg,” Fontaine said.
The initial program was recorded through Zoom, with assistance from Kent Davies and Brett Lougheed from the University of Winnipeg’s Oral History Center. Fontaine said the recordings offer “a way to be with community without having to be together in person.”
Author: Babb, Orinthia
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