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Website aims to keep Michigan’s native languages alive

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 10:18 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:17 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - You often hear of people learning French, Spanish and other languages, but you seldom hear of anyone learning Ojibwe -- the native tongue spoken by many Native Americans in Michigan.

They’re concerned the language is dying and they’re working to keep it alive.

“We have to have a simulated environment,” said Dr. Aaron Payment. “That can be achieved through virtual education and through vignettes.”

Payment, with the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians, is speaking about preserving Native American languages by teaching them to younger generations. He believes that teaching children virtually, where they can immerse themselves in the language, will keep the language alive.

“Create a game where they could go on a quest and during that quest, they could learn all of the different words and languages by actually going through the video game and being able to cursor over a word to see what it says, but hearing it all in the language,” Payment said.

With hundreds of videos on social media giving crash courses to various indigenous languages, people -- like Stacie Sheldon -- are trying their best to make sure they survive. Sheldon is one of the founders of Ojibwe.net.

“People are always interested in learning the language of a place, but I don’t think they often realize that Michigan has its own first language,” Sheldon said.

For Sheldon and her crew, they don’t want to stop at teaching the language, they hope to educate people about the culture too.

“Now, we want to be able to host lessons and songs and cultural materials and how those link to the language,” Sheldon said. “That’s our vision now, to be able to be able to provide those things.”

More information on Ojibwe.net can be found on its official website here.

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