Learning and Teaching an Ancestral Language: Stories from Manitoba Teachers

By: Violet N. Okemaw


Within this book, Violet Okemaw, PhD documents teachers language teaching methods and students learning practices based on teacher interviews, classroom observations, artifacts, and reflections on the researchers’ own personal educational experiences. The book investigates whether and to what extent Anishinaabe language teachers incorporate Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) and bimaadiziwin (“way of life”) in their teaching of the Anishinaabe language and its literacies.

  • ISBN:  978-1-926476-49-0
    Price: $28.50
    Binding: Paperback
    Date: 2021
    Rights: World
    Pages: 128
    Size: 6” x 9”

  • Table of Contents

    Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Review of Prior Works and Findings
    3. Participant Profiles and Classroom Observations
    4. Ways of Teaching and Learning Anishinaabemowin: Language Teachers’ Voices
    5. Discussion, Implications, and Recommendations

    About the Author

    Figure 1. IKS and bimaadiziwin
    Figure 2. Incorporating IKS and bimaadiziwin
    Figure 3. The Seven Traditional Teachings
    Figure 4. The Medicine Wheel Teachings
    Figure 5. Enhanced Experiences and Resources Required
    Figure 6. Sample of Student Made Booklet

    Table 1. “W” Questions

  • Violet N. Okemaw

    Violet Okemaw, originally from Berens River First Nation, speaks fluent Anishinaabe and commends her parents and grandparents for her strong linguistic and cultural background. In 1984, Violet received her Bachelor of Education degree and later graduated with a Master in Education Degree at the University of Manitoba. She has taught elementary and secondary students and was as a school administrator. Violet has worked with MFNERC for several years. Violet graduated with her PhD in June 2019 at the University of Alberta. Her research is based on developing a deep understanding of the relationships among Anishinaabe language and literacies, Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), and bimaadiziwin (“a way of life”) in the Anishinaabe language by exploring current Aboriginal language teaching and learning practices. Violet and her husband Rudy Okemaw have two daughters Carrie and Danielle, son-in law Monty, and two grandchildren Ruby and Monty Jr.

  • Violet Okemaw’s book Learning and Teaching an Ancestral Language will be an asset to Indigenous languages teachers in Canada as we move forward to fulfill the hopes and mandate of the 2019 Indigenous Languages Act of Canada. The voices of these experienced teachers ground us all in traditional knowledge and language teaching practices

    Heather Blair, PhD

    Faculty of Education
    University of Alberta

    This is an important piece that will be of value to the developing field of Indigenous language education. Given that Indigenous language revitalization and celebration is frequently localized in regard to community and national relevance, this book’s focus on the Anishinaabe experience in Manitoba is powerful. A great book!

    Frank Deer, PhD

    Canada Research Chair & Associate Professor
    Faculty of Education
    University of Manitoba

    Anishinaabemowin enriched with Mino-Bimaadiziwin Indigenous philosophic knowledges is what author Okemaw shares in this rich storywork of Anishinaabe language teachers. Her model can inform curriculum.

    Laara Fitznor, EdD

    Associate Professor (Emeritus)
    Faculty of Education
    University of Manitoba

    Dr. Okemaw, Anishinaabe scholar, is a passionate advocate of Indigenous languages. Her work explores a teaching theory based on Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Bimaadiziwin (living a good life) an approach focussed on traditional teachings. I have longed to see such an approach emerge.

    Verna J. Kirkness CM OM

    Author of Creating Space: My Life and Work in Indigenous Education