Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Brings Kids Closer to Bilingualism

What seems like an ordinary preschool is actually an immersion in language.

The Sasiwaans Immersion School was born out of a 2008 resolution by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

It’s a comfortable place where children can absorb their language and cultural heritage.

Director of the Anishinaabe Language Revitalization Department Howard Webkamigad says the tribe’s hope is to revitalize their language among the young.

The students aren’t taught grammar or anything that strenuous.

It’s a normal preschool with aides and teachers primarily speaking Anishinaabe—and the kids are picking it up.

“The first time I walked into one of those classrooms, a little girl came up to me and took me around the room, pointed at the colors and said the names of the colors in the language,” Webkamigad says. “I was impressed by that. I myself went to a residential school the first two and a half years of my school life, and I didn’t like it one bit. The idea was to get rid of their language and their culture, their belief systems. So we tried to learn English really fast because we didn’t like getting punished.”

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