Students get a chance to learn Ojibwe in schools in Michigan
Friday, February 11 2011
Written by Circle News Staff,
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Learning a second language is not always about learning foreign language. It can also be about preserving what's been right here for generations, language at risk of being lost.
In addition to offerings, such as French or Spanish, more northern Michigan public schools and colleges are offering students the chance to learn Anishinaabemowin, or Ojibwe.
Suttons Bay Public Schools is a regional leader in offering native languages for second-language credit. The program is now three years old. In tough budget times, Suttons Bay had held tight to its native language offerings.
French and Spanish are more popular. But middle-and-high School Principal Raph Rittenhouse says teaching native language and culture is, perhaps, more important.
"I think other folks, outsiders, have a sense that something very unique to the area exists here," he says. Suttons Bay lies just south of reservation land of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. "I think it is important for us to recognize those elements and to make sure they're really firmly implanted in our local culture. We can't forget what gave rise to this area."
Many of the tribe's children attend school in Suttons Bay, and a few are sitting a part of this first-year language class.  The students didn't grow up with this language. Few people alive today speak Anishinaabemowin as a mother-tongue.
It's an opportunity that's not always been around. Principal Raph Rittenhouse says, for too long, the schools have largely ignored native culture.
"As we've been paying attention to it, I just think we've been turning the nose of the ship back in the right direction," he says.

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