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Alderville First Nations to learn native language

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

ALDERVILLE - Few people speak the Ojibway language in Alderville First Nation but more will get a chance to learn with new federal funding to expand existing classes for adults and children.

During a media conference Thursday when Northumberland-Quinte West local MP Rick Norlock announced the $24,652 grant, Alderville First Nation Chief Jim Bob Marsden recalled being told his grandfather hadn't been allowed to speak their native tongue for fear of being sent away to a residential school.

While Marsden said he has attended a few evening class sessions (Alderville has provided these classes for 15 years), Ojibway is a difficult language, and not one he can yet speak himself.

Ojibway is also currently taught to youngsters at the reserve's daycare facility, located next door to its learning centre, as well as in Roseneath Public School where students from Grade 3 onward can choose French or Ojibway, he said. That began after negotiations with the local school board in 1996. A past principal took part and an area minister, he said.

Marsden noted, however, that the money provided for teaching native First Nation languages is a "drop in the bucket" compared to that provided for French.

Teaching a language helps reinforce history and culture and is especially important for young people, Norlock said.

This funding will "help fill in the gaps," he said.

During the conference both men used the expression "use it or lose it" in reference to speaking the Ojibway language.

A lot of people want to continue learning the language in Alderville, education manager Nancy Marsden said. There are about 20 interested in taking part in weekly sessions.

According to the media release provided by Norlock's office, "funding will enable the Alderville First Nation to undertake a master-apprentice program with weekly sessions between a fluent Elder and an apprentice, and to hold language sessions for parents and their children, as well as weekly language classes for adults and young people."

Classes are open to anyone and not just those at Alderville, Nancy Marsden said.

CDs and DVDs will assist in the learning process.

The grant comes through the Aboriginal Languages Initiatives of the Canadian Heritage's Aboriginal Peoples' Program.