Language is an important element of the Anishinabe culture. Unfortunately, government policy of the last century was mainly to assimilate First Nations lifestyle to that of mainstream society. This resulted in the sad era of residential schools where Anishinabeg children were removed from their families, and deprived of everything that tied them to their roots (clothing, language, teachings, territory and spirituality). They were punished if they used their language to communicate amongst each other.
Although residential schools were abolished and the Federal government has officially apologized to First Nations peoples, the teaching of indigenous language is so poorly funded that it is difficult to establish language programs. Based on existing resources, communities must fund, at least in part, the teaching of the Anishinabe language. However, Aboriginal youth are already receiving less funding than what is normally given to young people in provincial schools for their education.
In some communities the Algonquin language had almost disappeared, and within the whole nation only 33% of the members still speak Anishinabe according to Statistics Canada, who also state that knowledge of the language is rapidly decreasing among youth.
It is in this context that the Tribal Council has worked hard in recent years to support the work of the Mamiwinini Mamawotagoziwin Language Preservation Committee. The Council has taken the first step in working on the establishment of a common curriculum for the teaching of the language for elementary grades 1-3. The next step will be to cover the remaining three elementary school grades.