The Niichii Project: Revitalizing Indigenous Language in Northern Canada
Keywords:Indigenous pedagogies, Indigenous language revitalization, children’s Indigenous identities, intergenerational learning, experiential learning, oral tradition, land-based pedagogies, spirituality in learning, relational pedagogical processes
Two Anishnabek kindergarten teachers discuss four principles of Indigenous pedagogies in a project with a university researcher that created a context for children to engage in activities to learn their Anishnabek language and culture, and create positive identities. The university researcher sent a rabbit puppet named Niichii (Friend), who was assigned the role of an Anishnaabek child whose family was from their Indigenous community but had moved away. Taking the role of Niichii’s Kokum (Grandmother), the university researcher asked the child to teach Niichii the community’s language and traditional ways. The teachers describe and interpret the learning activities of the Niichii project in terms of four elements of Indigenous pedagogies: intergenerational learning; experiential learning; spiritual learning involving interconnections with the land; and learning about relationality. Implications for other bilingual and multilingual contexts include creating role play contexts where children are positioned as teachers and helpers to support an imaginary character’s language and cultural learning, building on children’s funds of knowledge and highlighting cultural connections to the local community.
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