Michif to be taught at some pre-school and kindergarten classrooms this fall
- Michelle Lerat | July 20, 2020
The Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) is bringing Michif and Dene language learning to pre-school and kindergarten children in select classrooms in Saskatoon, Regina, Ile-a-la-Crosse and La Loche this fall.
The Metis Early Learning Pilot Project (MELPP) will offer the Michif program at selected sites in Saskatoon, Regina, and Ile-a-la-Crosse, while the Dene Early Learning Pilot Project (DELPP) will be offered only at Ducharme School in La Loche.
According to the 2016 Canada census data, there are fewer than 640 Michif speakers in Canada. MN-S is working to ensure the number of speakers increases.
Jeannine Whitehouse, the First Nations, Metis, Inuit Education Coordinator with Regina Catholic Schools, was thrilled when MN-S approached them to become partners for the MELPP.
The program is designed to connect children with Métis culture and immerse them in a full-day Michif language program led by Metis teachers and Michif language keepers.
It is intended to also build capacity among educators to teach Michif and Metis culture.
MELPP will take place at Sacred Heart Community School in Regina for the Kindergarten class this fall. Whitehouse’s 80-year-old mother Jeanne Pelletier, who is a fluent Michif speaker, will pass on some of the Michif language and Metis culture to the next generation.
The programming for the MELPP will look different for every school board based on the communities and the needs of the school divisions. Regina has a significantly low number of Michif speakers, Whitehouse said.
“We’re really at a critical point when we look at the language and the ability for us to have language speakers within the classroom and have the children experience that fluency,” said Whitehouse “We are kind of running out of time in that aspect so, I think It's very timely.”
At the Regina Catholic School division, the MELPP will consist of full-day kindergarten classes with a Metis perspective and worldview within the classroom. On Fridays, teachers will work with language keepers and elders. One Friday per month, families will be invited in to see what is being taught.
“It's not just about the language,” said Whitehouse. “It's about the culture because everything we do is embedded in that language and so as we’re learning that language those cultural pieces are going to come.”
Many adults in LaLoche speak Dene, but only a handful of children are fluent in the language so they are the focus of the DELPP.
La Loche has hired eight Dene teachers, who are graduates of the first Dene Teacher Education Program offered by First Nations University of Canada, to teach the language to prekindergarten and kindergarten children from La Loche who are attending Ducharme School in the fall.
Both the MELPP and the DELPP are part of a broader partnership between MN–S and the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.
Registration is open now for the all-day Michif programs for the 2020-21 school year to be offered at Saskatoon and Regina public and Catholic schools by contacting the local school divisions.
Registration for the Dene program is through Darcy Ahenakew at the Northern Lights School Division email@example.com. Information about the Dene programs is also available from Lisa Fleming at MN-S firstname.lastname@example.org.