U of G offers first Indigenous language course

The University of Guelph introduced its first Indigenous language course this fall.

Students are learning the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwa)language, chosen because of its deep connection to the Guelph area and the Great Lakes region, says Charlotte Yates, provost and vice-president (academic). The course has garnered interest from campus and the local community.

Once widely spoken in North America, Anishinaabemowin was among many Indigenous languages suppressed in Canada beginning in the mid-19th century.

Indigenous peoples have been working to preserve their languages; the Ojibwa language is the second-most commonly spoken Indigenous language in Canada.

U of G’s Ojibwa language course is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s calls to action, says Prof. Sandra Parmegiani, acting director of the School of Languages and Literatures.

The TRC report called for preserving Indigenous language and culture and for post-secondary institutions to create programs in Aboriginal languages.

Prof. Kim Anderson, a Métis scholar in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, says, “Universities in Canada were built in Indigenous homelands, and there are original languages that belong to these lands.

“I think it’s important for all Canadian universities, at a minimum, to invest in teaching the languages that belong to the territories they now occupy.”