A new TV streaming app dubbed “the Ojibway Netflix” was launched this month by a Winnipeg-based company that says the app is the first Ojibwe-language streaming service.
It’s the latest effort in a growing movement across Minnesota and the region to tap new technology to revive American Indian languages.
“It’s going to revitalize the language,” said Darrick Baxter, founder and CEO of Ogoki Learning Inc., which launched Ojibway TV. “There are tribes that see this as absolutely groundbreaking.”
Ojibway TV, which is available on Apple TV and Android TV free of charge, features cartoon episodes and mostly curated content from YouTube, such as language lessons.
Baxter, a self-taught programmer who created a language app a few years ago, also helped the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Minnesota create a language app this year that’s specific to the community’s dialect.
For years, generations of Indians across the country were discouraged from speaking their native dialect. Now, those languages are making a comeback thanks in part to new interest by younger generations and new methods of teaching, such as a Lakota language dictionary app.
At Minnesota’s seven Anishinaabe or Ojibwe reservations and four Dakota or Sioux communities, new language classes have started and Dakota or Ojibwe street signs have been added next to English ones.
At the Lower Sioux Indian Community in Morton, Minn., teachers Ryan Dixon and Vanessa Goodthunder helped develop a Dakota language app with a grant from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. New language classes are using the app, which teaches language through games. The app is expected to be released to the public next year.
“The only thing that’s going to save the language is speaking it,” Dixon said. “But all these apps and technology are helpful tools.”
In Duluth, the Children’s Museum also launched a free phone app called Mikan, with a game that teaches Ojibwe terms used in the harvesting of wild rice as part of a new wild rice exhibit. The museum is also adding signs with Ojibwe words next to English words to teach key phrases.
“We’re honoring a lot of history about Duluth … and the Ojibwe connection is just a major part,” said Cameron Bloom Kruger, museum president. “Ojibwe is a dying language. We want people, especially Duluthians, to learn a piece of the language.”