Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Red Lake ISD #38 Integrating Culture/Language into "Core" Curriculum

Goal: To Have Graduates Be Able to Speak Conversational Ojibwe


December 27, 2018

Red Lake School

RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION - Red Lake School District has begun to integrate culture into the "Core" curriculum which is math, science, language and arts, with the goal to have graduates being able to speak conversational Ojibwe.

"Much of this initiative is in the planning stage," said Dr. Giniwgiizhig, Principal On Special Assignment with the school district. "We are asking students, teachers, parents and the Red Lake Tribe what they want and need for this to happen. We want to include every ones' voice so we can gather ideas, concerns, and know what is needed to be successful. The most important phase is to start the conversations and listen to what people have to say."

For the cultural integration Giniwgiizhig is simply asking teachers to include cultural aspects in their unit plans and lesson designs. A class might go out on an experiential learning activity such as maple sugar bush or rabbit snaring and teachers make connections in their lesson to that. The maple sap to syrup boiling ratio is 40:1. Many math problems and language art correlations can be extrapolated from that he notes.

"We want students to graduate with basic Ojibwe language conversational skills," Giniwgiizhig says. "To do this we need to develop standards, bench marks, and a curriculum path to get there. We need to retool our system to realize this goal. As part of the language initiative, we need to make language available to teachers, students and parents."

Website Available to All

The school district has created a website for Ojibwe language so language is accessible to everyone at their fingertips. The website is

The website has vocabulary lists with audio files. A person could use their hands-free cell phone and listen to the audio lessons while driving to work or anywhere with Wi-Fi connection. Mp3 audio files are also available for download. Vocabularies were designed by Red Lake teachers for their classrooms and other thematic words are posted. The program will continue to add resources to the website, such as word labels for the classrooms and home.

"By getting teachers to learn use Ojibwe phrases like greetings, affirmations, and classroom management words," said Giniwgiizhig, "students will hear the language through the entire school setting. Parents can learn and speak Ojibwe to their children at home. Other schools and parents can access the website and learn as well. Hopefully shop owners who may or may not be participating in Bemidji's Ojibwe Signage Project, will learn to better pronounce the words they have posted and all businesses be greeting people in their stores in Ojibwe, celebrating the Indigenous culture of northern Minnesota

Sent to all school staff recently (Curriculum and Instruction Newsletter, November, 2018)

"Indigenizing" the Curriculum: What does it mean?

• Students "see" themselves in the curriculum, whether it is the stories they read, the math problems they do, the games they play, or in the learning activities.

• Students see pictures, words, etc., that reflect their culture throughout the day.

• Students hear their language spoken by adults in the school, and have the opportunity to learn it themselves.

• Students participate in meaningful cultural activities such as sugar bush.

Why do we do it?

Dr. Giniwgiizhig is Principal On Special Assignment at the Red Lake School ISD#38

• For the students! They feel valued, respected, and welcome.

• Schools who have done it report increased graduation rates, MCA scores, and attendance, along with a decline in discipline referrals.

How do we do it?

• Start small! Learn a few Ojibwe phrases that you can use every day with your students. Then learn a few more.

• As you plan your units and lessons, intentionally decide how to make cultural connections for the students.

• Find ways to incorporate Ojibwe culture and language into the bulletin boards and postings in your classroom.

• Ask one of the district's valuable resource people for help. Dr. Giniwgiizhig will be happy to assist and/or help you connect with someone in your building.


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