The University of Winnipeg



Educational Ojibwe radio drama to hit the airwaves in 2021

Dr. Lorena Fontaine, Office of Indigenous Engagement, played a crucial role in the development of ‘Aakoziiwigamig: An Ojibwe Radio Drama,’ which is airing in 2021.

A new educational Indigenous language radio show is hitting the airwaves in 2021.

Aakoziiwigamig: An Ojibwe Radio Drama will be airing Wednesday, January 13 on NCI. The show was collaboratively created by The University of Winnipeg’s Office of Indigenous Engagement, Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, and Oral History Centre,  along with NCI, Indigenous Languages of Manitoba Inc., and Mazinaate Publishing Partnership.

The idea for a radio drama was discussed after community language classes at Wii Chiiwaakanak and Indigenous Languages of Manitoba were unable to be offered due to the pandemic.

“I was concerned that students who were taking Indigenous language classes at the University now had nowhere to go and practice in the community speaking the language,” said Dr. Lorena Fontaine, Indigenous Academic Lead. “We thought about using radio as a means of speakers speaking the language and sharing it with the community.”

There will be a number of recording sessions until June with the drama airing every second Wednesday. The segment itself will be approximately 10 minutes long, but Fontaine said there will be an Ojibwe teaching session before each program to help people who aren’t speakers learn a few words and follow along with the drama when it airs.

The process for creating the show started over this summer when Fontaine contacted David McLeod from NCI. He loved the idea of a radio drama and once it was decided that they would go forward with the project, the next step was to put together a script in Ojibwe.

Patricia Ningewance is a leader in Ojibwe teaching and translation in Canada, and was the perfect person to write the script for this drama. Fontaine approached her about writing it and “she loved the idea.”

“She loves Grey’s Anatomy and wanted to do something around a hospital setting,” Fontaine explained. “Pat also thought a dialogue in a hospital would accommodate different dialects, because we have a number of Ojibwe speakers with different dialects in Winnipeg.”

With a script written, the most challenging part of the project was putting together a cast of fluent speakers and recording the series in the middle of a global pandemic.

Kent Davies and Brett Lougheed from the Oral History Centre have tremendously helped with the process and the decision to record on Zoom. While only one episode has been completed recently, Fontaine said the meetings have created a lot of joy for everyone involved.

“It’s a way to be with community without having to be together in person,” she said. “It feels good to be together listening to Ojibwe.”

UWinnipeg is also working on an Indigenous language program and in order for a language to be successfully revitalized, Fontaine said there needs to be a community of speakers.

She hopes the drama can be incorporated into the program and include students, and possibly expand to Cree as well.

“We need more places to hear and practice the language,” she said. “I can see this being an important component to our language program and we could get students in the production in the future.”

If you’re unable to tune into the broadcast in January, all episodes will be uploaded to UWinnipeg’s Office of Indigenous Engagement website.