Learn Anishinaabemowin event gives students a chance to mix learning with physical activity

By: Braydon Augustine

Learn Anishinaabemowin, an event hosted by Red River College Polytechnic’s Language Training Centre and the Latin Identity Club, gave staff and students the chance to learn an Indigenous language in a fun and safe environment.

The event opened with an introduction to Indigenous language. Attendees recited ten Anishinaabemowin words, all centred around physical actions. Words like Tangishkegin (kick) and Gizhiiba’ibizon (turn) gave participants the basic action words required to lead their partners in the subsequent salsa dance routine.  

Participants spent the remaining time dancing, laughing, learning and chatting. Many students used the opportunity to share and showcase their own cultural backgrounds through dance.

“We wanted to inject some fun into the academic year,” said Corey Whitford, an Indigenous Language Instructor at RRC Polytech. “All year staff and students have been working hard and we wanted to give them a chance to end the year on a positive note.”

By the end of the event, many participants were dripping sweat. The hour-long event ended with attendees giving their best Zaasaakwe.

Zaasaakwe used to be a war cry, but now it’s morphed into more of a joyful yell,” Whitford said. “If you say Zaasaakwe to certain Indigenous people, they will cry out in a display of positive emotion.”

RRC Polytech staff and students bust out their best dance moves as part of the Learn Anishinaabemowin event on Tuesday, April 4th, at RRC Polytech’s Exchange District Campus. The event gave participants the chance to let loose and enjoy a lunch hour of physical activity and language learning. (Braydon Augustine)

Whitford said it’s important to pass on the Anishinaabemowin language to anyone willing to learn. He said he hopes the event’s attendees leave feeling enriched.

“I’m hoping that participants will leave with a memory and a story,” said Whitford.

Terri-Lynn Anderson, an events coordinator at RRC Polytech, said events like Learn Anishinaabemowin are important because they offer staff and students the opportunity to learn about different cultures while sharing their own at the same time.

“It’s definitely a possibility for future events to take place that include other cultures, we’ve had requests for a sort of series that covers a different background in each iteration,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the Language Training Centre hopes to host more events that combine physical activity with Indigenous language training.