Aboriginal community offered the gift of language and culture

The multi-award winning Deninu K-12 School is a proactive, highly visible and progressively supportive academic institute geared toward a purposeful education and student success. It is located in the Hamlet of Fort Resolution on the south shores of Great Slave Lake. The student population consists of 112 registered students. Along with the academic demands, the Deninu K-12 School has numerous partnerships across Canada that help provide a variety of healthy living initiatives and X-culture programs to support both better living and culture identity.

In the not so distant past, it was rare to hear Chipewyan spoken in the school or at community functions. Only a handful of elders were fluent speakers and their numbers were declining. In spite of the best efforts of many, few young people were interested in learning their ancestral language. The Deninu School and its stakeholders made a commitment to foster a love for the language among the students.

Along with Chipewyan-only environments, high expectations by staff, and strong support from the school district and stakeholders, the Deninu School Chipewyan language instructor began by using games, drama, media and iPad recorded conversational productions as strategies to encourage students to practice. Beyond the Chipewyan classroom, staff began learning basic Chipewyn and then insisted that all greetings in their classrooms were spoken the language. It became a school-wide initiative.
Deninu School also pioneered the use of digital technology in the Chipewyan language classroom to reinforce language lessons. In addition to being one of the first Aboriginal language instructors to embrace the use of SMART Boards in the north, there is regular use of digital books, computer fitted Chipewyan language font keyboards, and web-based research language supports - all of which are engaging students to value, learn, write and regularly speak their language. As one elder stated while wiping away tears of joy, "I thought my language was lost. Thank you."
To further strengthen the Chipewyan language efforts, a collaboration of school staff, elders and divisional guidance created an award winning Chipewyan Dictionary - a resource that preserved more than 5,000 Chipewyan words, phrases and conversations. This dictionary, now in its second reprint, was the result of more than three years of work by school staff, the school district, the elders and linguists. Recognizing the value of this published resource, it was suggested by the Deninu School language instructor that a digital copy of the dictionary be created - which has since been loaded onto the Aboriginal language class computers so students can search for Chipewyan words and listen to their pronunciation from sound files attached to these words. In all, a true success story!

For more information, contact:

Gen-Ling Chang
Director, Research & Equity
647 252 3581