A new educational Indigenous language radio show called Aakoziiwigamig: An Ojibwe Radio Drama is set to air early next year on Native Communications Incorporated (NCI FM).
This show is created in partnership with The University of Winnipeg’s Office of Indigenous Engagement, Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, U of W's Oral History Centre, NCI FM, Indigenous Languages of Manitoba Inc., and Mazinaate Publishing Partnership.
The idea for the radio show came about because Wii Chiiwaakanak and Indigenous Languages of Manitoba were unable to offer community language classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want students who were taking the language classes to have access to an environment where they can hear the language, speak the language and use the language,” said Dr. Lorena Fontaine, U of W’s Indigenous Academic Lead on Tuesday.
“Our community classes, as well as our community programming, used to be able to provide that but because of the pandemic, we are not able to gather. We thought that a radio drama would at least allow students and people in our community to hear the language in a community setting.”
Airing every second Wednesday, the drama will air until June 2021 with segments being approximately 10 minutes long. The partners have committed to produce about 10 episodes for the drama.
Before each program, there will be a teaching session to teach non-native listeners a few Ojibwe words so they would be able to follow along with the drama when it airs.
During the summer, Fontaine contacted David McLeod, General Manager of NCI FM, about the potential creation of the show.
When it was decided that NCI FM is willing to move forward with the project, Fontaine approached Patricia Ningewance, an Ojibwe language teacher, to write a script for the drama.
“She wrote the script based on her love for Grey’s Anatomy and wanted to do something around a hospital setting,” said Fontaine.
“Pat also thought a dialogue in a hospital would accommodate different dialects, because we have a number of Ojibwe speakers with different dialects in Winnipeg.”
There are currently approximately 17 speakers who are involved in this drama as well as two people in the editing team.
Recordings are currently being done through Zoom due to the pandemic.
Only two episodes have been completed but Fontaine noted that the meetings have created a lot of joy for everyone involved.
Fontaine hopes that the drama series could continue on and possibly expand to Cree as well.
“We need more places to hear and practice the language. I can see this being an important component to our language program and we could get students in the production in the future,” she said.
“I can see this being an important component to our language program and we could get students in the production in the future.”
All episodes will be uploaded to the U of W’s Office of Indigenous Engagement website for those who are unable to tune into the broadcast in January.
Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun