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Michif Language Immersion Program

Feasibility Study

220 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1200, Ottawa, ON K1P 5Z9


Telephone : 1-877-602-4445 E-mail : metiscentre@naho.ca
Website : www.naho.ca/metiscentre

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ISSUE:
The feasibility of, and a proposal for, research on the efficacy of a language
immersion program, the master-apprentice language learning program, in a Mtis
community, with particular interest in its potential use in other Mtis communities,
and its relation to broader questions pertaining to language and culture as social
determinants of health
SUBMITTED TO:
Jonathan Dewar
Director
SUBMITTED BY:
Tricia Logan
Community Liaison Officer
and
Michael Fisher
Research Officer

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Purpose: more than immersion


In this pilot project, the Mtis Centre proposes to research the activities of one to four
students attending a one-month, Michif language immersion program, taught by qualified
instructors. During the program, students learn basic conversation skills and establish a
foundation of knowledge from which, through continued practice and learning, they may
achieve fluency. These fluent speakers can, in turn, teach the language to others in their
families and communities, particularly children.
For the duration of the month, the learners live and learn Michif, attending classes and
activities for a minimum of 20 hours per week. Instruction is full immersion, with only
Michif being spoken.
The pilot project is exploratory in nature, intended to serve a number of related research
goals:

To study how to practically implement Mtis language immersion programs in


Mtis communities, thereby developing a promising practice model for a
community-based, aboriginal language revitalization program
To act as a catalyst for future research on language revitalization activities, which
may include providing training programs to fluent speakers of Mtis languages
that would facilitate immersion programs in other Mtis communities as well
as seeking necessary funding and other resources to facilitate such programs
To record (i.e. audio and video) and archive the Michif language, creating
resources for students and researchers and, importantly, documenting a dialect
of the language in danger of disappearing and, in the process, developing
promising practices on creating archival resources for endangered Mtis
languages
To explore the intersection of language, culture and health, a research opportunity
that will enhance the Mtis Centres knowledge of population health issues

Above all, this is a research project, intended to increase existing knowledge of, and to
facilitate further research on, promising practices in Mtis, community-based language
immersion training and, importantly, revitalization of Michif and other Mtis languages.
These are some of the most endangered indigenous languages in Canada. Each of the four
goals noted above, while related, are somewhat independent research activities, to be
undertaken simultaneously while the immersion program is in progress. As such, each
requires further elaboration, including research and planning, prior to implementation of
the immersion program.
Please note that while the language of instruction in the immersion program subject to the
research in this project is Michif, the focus of the research is the immersion program
itself, which is a suitable method for teaching any language. As such, the research is
intended to be of value to anyone with an interest in a) language and culture as social
determinants of health and b) revitalizing indigenous languages, particularly those spoken
by the Mtis. That much of the background work pertaining to this project heavily

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references Michif is owing to the interests of the researchers and to the availability of
information. It should be duly noted that Mtis speak indigenous languages other than
Michif, and these languages are also in danger of disappearing. This project is concerned
with doing something about it.
Backdrop: the need for an immersion program
Michif is dying. 1 The unique Mtis language, a mixture of Cree verbs and French nouns,
is in steep decline. A majority of its speakers are elderly. Mtis children are less likely
than other aboriginal children to speak or understand an indigenous language. Immediate
action is necessary to save it and other Mtis languages from extinction.
With the loss of a language more is at stake than simply losing a form of communication.
Language is an essential element of culture. The link between cultural vitality and healthy
individuals and communities has been well documented. A population approach to
health, endorsed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health
Organization, reinforces that social determinants of health largely explain health
inequalities suffered by aboriginal peoples. 2 Social determinants of health include a host
of factors such as culture, gender, healthy child development, education, income and
social status. Language, it may be said, is laced throughout all of those elements; it is
fundamental to an individuals sense of who they are, where they are from, and the lens
through which they see the world.
Aside from teaching and reinforcing ones place in the world, there are practical
implications for reviving Michif and other indigenous languages spoken by the Mtis. Its
been said that bilingual students, for example, perform better academically. Studies show
bilingual children are more advanced in general intellectual development. 3
Language is a tool of knowledge. Minority groups are generally pressured by the
assimilative tendencies of the dominant, mainstream culture. In western Canada, where
Michif was born, the decline of Michif has been hastened by discrimination and socioeconomic factors against which the Mtis population continues to struggle. 4 Michif
speakers were not valued by mainstream society; discouraged from speaking it at school
or at work, they stopped speaking it at home. English became the standard. The same can
be said of other Mtis languages. Teaching people Michif and other Mtis languages
signals more than an interest in cultural history; it is an assertion of Mtis culture. And in
as much as a healthy language and culture are indicative of healthy individuals and
1

Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures, Towards a New Beginning: A Foundational Report
for a Strategy to Revitalize First Nations, Inuit and Mtis Languages and Cultures (Ottawa: Canadian
Heritage, 2005), p. 36-37.
2
Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadas Response to WHO Commission on Social Determinants of
Health, http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/sdh-dss/index.html (accessed Feb. 1, 2007).
3
Laura Burnouf, Indigenous Language Rejuvenation, Indigenous Knowledge Systems International
Symposium, Indigenous Peoples Program, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, May 10-13, 2004.
(Personal notes)
4
Statistics Canada, Aboriginal Peoples Survey 2001 initial findings: Well-being of the non-reserve
Aboriginal Population (Ottawa: Minster of Industry, 2003).

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communities, to restore Mtis languages to their former vitality can serve as a part,
perhaps an integral one, of the larger strategy to counteract the health inequalities and
socio-economic marginalization facing Mtis people.
That may sound like a tall order, but it is noteworthy that the Mtis National Council and
its provincial affiliates have expressed support for revitalizing the Michif language, as it
is a central, and symbolic, defining characteristic of the unique cultural heritage of Mtis
people. 5 Language is identity. The continued use and survival of Michif and other Mtis
languages are a part of the struggle for Mtis rights and self-determination.
And while there are pockets of activity across the country, notably annual conferences
hosted by provincial Mtis organizations and sponsored by Canadian Heritage, affirming
an urgent need to teach and learn Michif, formal language instruction is, for the most
part, simply not available. This is a serious problem. Languages die when those who
speak them are not able to pass them on to the younger generations. And where
languages, such as Michif, are at an advanced stage of endangerment, practical
considerations may subdue any sense of urgency to save the language. People need to
earn a living. Schools have limited budgets and resources, if any, for indigenous language
instruction. And, frankly, there are other things going on: English is everywhere, and
North American popular culture has not exhibited a capacity to account for minority
voices, especially those indigenous to North America.
The above merely scratches the surface. For a somewhat deeper discussion on the
importance of language revitalization, language as a social determinant of health and its
relation to population health, see {Whats that thing called?}, a companion to this
document. It also includes information on the number of Mtis who speak indigenous
languages, the advanced stage of endangerment of these languages, particularly in
comparison to other aboriginal peoples, and the urgent need to hasten revitalization
efforts.
Immersion: the best way to learn a language
Immersion is widely considered the best method of learning a language. 6 Any instruction,
one can argue, is better than no instruction. But practically speaking, immersion is
believed by many language experts to be the most probable means of creating fluent
speakers. Creating immersion situations requires mobilizing fluent speakers to teach their
languages to younger generations who in turn teach it to others, thus restoring
intergenerational transmission of the language. Retaining the language requires creating
clusters of fluent speakers who use it every day at home and with others in the
community, as a living language.

Mtis National Council, What does the future hold for our Michif language?,
http://www.metisnation.ca/cabinet/culture.html (accessed Feb. 1, 2007).
6
For discussions on revitalizing endangered heritage languages, see the articles in The Green Book of
Language Revitalization in Practice, Edited by Leanne Hinton and Ken Hale (San Diego: Academic Press,
2001).

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Revitalizing a language is hard. Implementing bilingual education and formal immersion


programs in primary schools, or in colleges and community centres wherever Mtis
people call home, would arguably be the most effective way to restore a language. 7
Making instruction widely accessible should be (and hopefully is) a goal of Mtis
representative organizations. At the same time, language revitalization requires multiple
efforts, taking advantage of every opportunity to pass on the language. Practical solutions
are available to some of the common problems facing communities who wish to
revitalize their languages, particularly lack of resources (financial and otherwise) and
lack of instructors, perhaps the two greatest difficulties facing revitalization efforts.
Indeed, a common complaint among people who care about this sort of thing is the lack
of financial support (or any other support for that matter) available for the Michif
language.
The most important resources, however, are the remaining fluent speakers, those whose
first languages are Michif and other indigenous languages. Tapping into that resource
takes time and energy and yes, perhaps, money. But at the heart of the matter are
people. Speakers and learners need to put in the time and energy to teach and learn their
language. This is not easy, for it is a lot of hard work, the amount of which should not be
underestimated by beginning students. But it is possible provided the two elements are
together, committed to the same goal. Successfully bringing together students and
teachers is a challenge that indigenous language advocates strive to overcome. The Mtis
Centre has an opportunity to research the efficacy of a highly regarded, community-based
language immersion program, with a well documented success rate in indigenous
communities, including anecdotal evidence that it may be suitably adapted to the needs of
Mtis communities.
Method: master-apprenticeship language learning program
The master-apprenticeship program has its origins in California, devised to help preserve
the states 50 endangered indigenous languages, some of which have fewer speakers than
Michif. 8 A feature of the method is that it is designed to work in communities where, as
is the case for Michif, elderly people speak the language, but it is not communicated to
children and youth. The method does not require classrooms or books (and, in fact, the
latter is anathema to successfully learning an oral language). Adults learn the language
and then teach it to their children in the home, or to others in the community, to bring it
back into everyday use. Ideally, a cluster of speakers is created who are able to teach
more speakers and so on. It all starts with a highly motivated speaker and learner who
implement the program together. Outside experts are not required.
7

Indeed, this was a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. See Royal
Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 4,
Perspectives and Realities, Chapter 5: Mtis Perspectives, Section 2.2: Looking at the Past, Looking
Toward the Future, (1996). Available at: http://www.aincinac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sj23_e.html#2.2%20Looking%20at%20the%20Present,%20Looking%20Toward%20
the%20Future (accessed February 1, 2007).
8
For more information on the Master-Apprenticeship Language Learning Program, see Leanne Hinton,
How to Keep Your Language Alive: A common sense approach to one-on-one language learning (Berkeley,
California: Heyday Books, 2002).

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A practical teaching method for any language, the master-apprenticeship program has
been transported throughout North America and beyond. The University of Victoria
recently hosted a workshop to teach its immersion principles. A similar model is credited
with helping indigenous Hawaiians save their language and culture from extinction, in a
less than 20-year period. 9 The master-apprentice model is aimed at teaching conversation
in a natural setting, in such a way that cultural traditions are also passed on, with the
speaker acting as a mentor to the learner. Both take an active role in the process,
engaging in day-to-day activities, completely immersed in the language.
Many persisting myths around language learning actually undermine language
instruction. The master-apprentice programs success demonstrates that these myths are,
well, myths. But some myths die hard, including these ones 10 :
A professional teacher, and books and a classroom, is required to teach a language.
Not true. It is beneficial to learn the language in the environment in which it is going
to be used. Speaking naturally is more important than reading and writing.
About those books, a student needs to learn through reading and writing. Not true.
Even for languages that have official writing systems, it is preferential to listen to the
language and to speak it. Some First Nations communities have switched to
immersion decades after written-only programs have shown little success.
Translation is required to learn a language. Not true. In fact, the opposite is more
likely, as grammar and meaning of words are so different language to language. It can
hinder learning. The idea is to be able to think in the other language, not to have to
translate first.
It is hard for adults to learn a second language. That is true. But it is not impossible.
And the problem often is inhibition, not inability.
Language learning will start when the funding comes in. Not a good idea, and not
necessary. Money may be a problem, because of the time commitment involved, but
finding the time is perhaps the most important element. One cannot learn a language
without being motivated. And the reality is that there is never enough grant money for
indigenous language programs.
The master-apprentice focus on immersion is not uncommon indeed, it is in a similar
manner that children learn to speak. Federal and provincial governments pump
considerable tax dollars into French-English immersion education, including the Explore
program, which provides bursaries for students who wish to learn either official language
in an intensive, five week course, including home stays with families who speak the
9

Patricia McBroom, Saving Tribal Tongues, The Berkeleyan, April, 1, 1995,


http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/1995/0301/tribal.html (accessed Dec. 20, 2006).
10
List adapted from see Leanne Hinton, How to Keep Your Language Alive: A common sense approach to
one-on-one language learning (Berkeley, California: Heyday Books, 2002), p. 1-5.

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target language. Some institutions that offer immersion programs have employed
language monitors to ensure the students do not deviate from the language of
instruction.
Leanne Hinton, a creator of the master-apprentice language immersion program, offers
ten points for successful language learning that have been widely adopted by immersion
advocates, like the Blue Quills First Nations College, in St. Paul, Alberta, a leader in Cree
language instruction. 11
1. Leave English behind
2. Make yourself understood with non-verbal communication
3. Teach in full sentences
4. Aim for real communication in your language
5. Language is also culture
6. Focus on listening and speaking
7. Learn and teach the language through activities
8. Use audio taping and videotaping
9. Be an active learner
10. Be sensitive to each others needs; be proud of each other and yourselves
The master-apprentice focus on oral communication, and fluency, accords with the oral
nature of the Michif language and Mtis traditions. Michif is an oral language. Some
Michif speakers have experimented with writing systems which currently are not in
widespread use and neither is there agreement on how to proceed with standardizing such
a thing. Since that debate is outside the Mtis Centres purview, the master-apprentice
model is well suited to the projects objectives, as it does not involve the use of a writing
system in the language of instruction. Developing, or using, a writing system is a separate
endeavour that is not within the scope of this project.
Camperville master-apprentice immersion program
A small-scale Michif master-apprentice immersion program has been successfully
implemented by volunteers, with no outside financial support, in Camperville, Man., a
town on Lake Winnipegosis 300 km northwest of Winnipeg. A language activist from
Vancouver, Heather Souter, created the program with two community elders, Rita
Flamand and Grace Zoldy, Michif speakers who have a decades-long history of political
activism with the Manitoba Mtis Federation, including language advocacy. In 2004, all
three traveled to California to learn the method from its progenitor, Advocates for
Indigenous California Language Survival, before taking in their first student, a young
man from Alberta, J.C. Schmidt, who, at his own expense, spent three months in
Camperville to attend the immersion program full-time. Later, Heather Souter relocated
to Camperville, also at her own expense, to become Grace and Ritas second student.
J.C. Schmidt, at the time of his Michif studies a student of the University of Calgarys
communications and culture program, reportedly became a fluent speaker of
11

Ibid., p. 10-19.

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conversational Michif during his three-month immersion experience. Heather Souter, too,
achieved a high level of fluency and continues to live in Camperville, working at the
Primary Health Care Centre. In 2007, she begins post-graduate work in linguistic
anthropology, with a focus on Michif, at the University of Kansas.
Through this early stage, Grace and Rita established a flexible curriculum to meet the
learning requirements of each individual student, consistent with the master-apprentice
methodology. They teach a half-day each, morning and afternoon, focusing on the
conversation and experiential learning, including everyday activities, like card playing
and cooking, but also wilderness walks to harvest berries and herbs. Instruction is Michif
only. Storytelling and Michif songs and prayers are not only useful learning aids but
teach students about Mtis culture and local history.
Grace and Rita live Michif, having spent their lives in Camperville, a mixed linguistic
community of Michif, Saulteaux and English. Growing up, with no roads leading out of
the community, they lived a traditional Mtis lifestyle, close to the land, learning stories
and history from parents and grandparents. Michif is their language and their culture, a
worldview that informs their teaching.
Since taking on two students, Grace and Rita have continued to be active in promoting
Michif revitalization, at speaking engagements, conferences, classes at elementary
schools and workshops, but they have been unable to secure funding or support to
continue hosting students. Teaching is a passion for both women, who combine
immersion pedagogy and traditional teachings in their methodology. The teachers
pedagogical styles are different and complementary. Grace is more inclined to hands-on
experiential activities, teaching a student, for example, to skin and cook a rabbit, using
fresh herbs picked from the countryside. Rita is more structured, employing visual aids,
repetition and prepared conversational topics on Mtis history. Both strive to refine their
teaching skills, attending conferences and networking with other indigenous language
instructors.
Rita has attended an aboriginal language specialist program at Red River College in
Winnipeg. She is also a published author. One of her works is an instruction guide,
published in association with the Winnipeg-based Mtis Resource Centre, Michif
Conversation for Beginners, accompanied by two audio CDs.
Grace and Rita are well known in Mtis circles; each has a reputation of kindness and
integrity. The idea for this project sprung from their contribution to a Mtis Centre
project that gathered mostly elderly Mtis to discuss health issues. Language was a
prominent topic that participants deemed a priority issue. Discussions with Grace and
Rita lead to this project. Both teachers articulately discuss their pedagogy and teaching
experiences. A critical inquiry by Mtis Centre staff affirms their approach is, on the face
of it, consistent with commonly recognized theory and practice in language immersion
education, for second-language acquisition generally and in indigenous contexts. This
research project intends to study and evaluate the efficacy of the master-apprentice
program in a Mtis community.

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Moreover, Grace and Rita established their language immersion program on their own
steam, a completely voluntary endeavour, run on their own time and energy, assisted by
self-funded volunteers committed to the survival of the Michif language.
Research: proposed language immersion program
Grace and Rita are able to host a maximum of four students. The daily course work is
split into morning and afternoon sessions. Rita instructs in the morning, Grace in the
afternoon, primarily from their homes, though frequent outings are planned. Their homes
are Michif-only zones, where only the language is to be spoken. Students are intended to
master a functional use of basic conversation. Visits to Michif speakers, for example at
the local elderly care home, provide additional opportunities to speak the language.
Ritas home is about 10 km, a five-minute drive, outside of Camperville, on a large
section of shorefront property. She lives with her daughter Ramona. It is not uncommon
in Mtis families for children to live with elderly parents. Graces home is in the town of
Camperville. She lives with her son Blaine and receives daily visits from a home care
worker who travels from nearby Swan River.
While course work and materials are to be planned and created by Grace and Rita,
students are ultimately responsible for their educations. They are expected to actively
engage not only in the learning process but its planning and implementation. This
includes helping to create and maintain the immersion situation. Individual learning
targets are to be planned mutually by the students and teachers from the outset. Over the
one-month period, the Mtis Centre will formally monitor the progress of individual
students, as a guide to their personal progress, for research and project evaluation.
A university language instructor, or other language expert, may be consulted, as required,
to assist in orientation, planning, setting objectives, de-briefing and evaluation. An
immersion program requires a great deal of commitment from the students and such
consultation may help prepare students for some of the challenges they can anticipate
throughout the month. Additionally, an outside expert may be consulted to assist the
Mtis Centre in program evaluation.
Students are expected to study the language on their own outside of class time. The
teachers plan to make language tapes and other materials available to help students
practice. Part of the students commitment to their studies will be to provide assistance to
Grace and Rita in creating these learning materials. Students are required to keep a daily
journal, for studying the language (tracking, for example, new vocabulary and phrases)
and also for recording details of their overall experiences, as the students will be required
to submit a full report to the Mtis Centre shortly after the program.

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Research Methodology and Ethics


At minimum, research conducted by the Mtis Centre is to adhere to NAHOs privacy
policy. The principles of OCAP are also important guiding factors, as are indigenous
approaches to research, which recognize that mainstream or academic research
methodologies and ethics may not always address concerns particular to Mtis, Inuit and
First Nations communities.
In conducting research during the course of this project, the Mtis Centre will strive to
keep an open dialogue with community partners and collaboratively develop a plan for
the gathering, analysis and dissemination of information associated with the project. As a
guiding principle, research results are intended to be of use to the community where the
research is taking place and, on some level, to Mtis communities generally.
Students and instructors are not so much research subjects as participants in the research
process. The immersion program itself is being evaluated, not the individuals. The
experiences of individual as participants in the immersion program, and their
contributions to the research project, will be evaluated in the context of the broader
research goals, essentially whether or not a) this particular immersion program is
efficacious in this particular Mtis community and b) its application has value in other
Mtis communities.
The research involves the study of a method of learning an indigenous language spoken
by Mtis, Michif. Language cannot be separated from culture. As is the case with Michif,
as it is generally for all Mtis speakers of indigenous language, the speakers and therefore
the teachers are elderly. A respectful relationship must be established, consistent with
community and traditional protocols, in order to undertake the language training and
associated research activities. In learning the language, cultural teachings, through
storytelling and songs, for example, are passed on from teacher to student. There is a
great deal of knowledge transmitted through the process of learning the language which
carries with it certain obligations, as Marlene Brant Castellano points out.
When you seek knowledge from an Elder, you offer tobacco or other
appropriate gifts to symbolize that you are accepting the ethical
obligations that go with receiving the knowledge. In each case, the
exchange confirms a relationship that continues beyond the time and place
of the exchange. Knowledge is not a commodity that can be purchased and
exploited at will. 12
Researchers are being invited into the homes of the language instructors and, to some
degree, their community. At all times they are to be cognizant of the relationship between
the language and the knowledge transmitted as well as community and traditional
protocols that govern the relationship. In such research, the distance between the
researcher and those who inform the researcher, a hallmark of western academic research,
is simply not possible. Indigenous research methodologies account for the unique cultural
12

Ethics of Aboriginal Research, Journal of Aboriginal Health (January 2004), p. 104.

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perspectives, and practical interests, of the individuals and communities involved in the
research, not just those of the researcher. 13 This document has been created in
consultation with the principle research partners and as best possible attempts to address
their concerns. Prior to engaging in any research, the Mtis Centre will continue this
dialogue and establish formal agreement on research protocols and ethics, research
implementation plans, informed consent (particularly those related to traditional
knowledge and personal information), OCAP, and any other issues of concern.
The Mtis Centre strives to use culturally appropriate methods in the gathering and
analysis of information. One model is community action research, a collaborative
approach to inquiry or investigation that provides people with the means to take
systematic action to resolve specific problems. 14 It bridges that divide between
researcher and informant in that such approaches assume that people know and can
reflect on their own lives, have questions and priorities of their own, have skills and
sensitivities which can enhance (or undermine) any community based projects. 15
Students will keep a daily journal of their experience and submit a written report upon
their completion of the language course which will inform the project report. Students
and teachers will be interviewed by Mtis Centre staff before, at regular intervals during,
and after the course is finished. These will be audio or video recorded and inform the
project report.
Parts of the language lessons and other activities may be recorded and archived. These
and other learning materials created during the course of the project are to be handled as
per agreement with their creators in consideration of issues discussed above, including
the opportunity to review material prior to it becoming publicly available.
Criteria for evaluating the language immersion program will be developed in consultation
with experts in the field. Aboriginal Languages of Manitoba, for example, has provided
the Mtis Centre with valuable background information on immersion programs for this
document.
Recruiting/selecting students
Rita and Grace have given two preferences for students. The first is that the students are
able to dedicate the full month to the program, prepared for the discipline required to
learn a language. Secondly, they prefer that students be of Michif ancestry, ideally from
the region or otherwise familiar with Michif people and communities.
Recruiting students poses challenges and costs. People lead busy lives, with family and
work obligations. Few can spare a month of their summer to take a language course,
regardless of interest. The Mtis Centre has to be sensitive to this reality and, as much as
13

Ibid.
Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (London: Zed
Books, 1999), p. 127.
15
Ibid.
14

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possible, create the conditions whereby students are able to commit their time. This may
include providing a stipend to offset living expenses and lost wages for the month.
Potential students have expressed interest in taking part in the program. Some individuals
are noted here to illustrate the potential far reaching benefits of a community-based
immersion program. Frieda Sutherland is employed by Swan River District Home Care
and works with the elderly in Camperville, many of whom are Michif speakers. She has a
professional interest in learning the language, as she could potentially use it everyday,
providing a higher level of care for her clients.
Nellie Kopitz, originally from Camperville, is now living in Brandon. A mental health
worker employed with the Brandon Friendship Centre, she also has a professional interest
in learning the language. She uses a holistic method of treatment, in working with her
Mtis and aboriginal clientele, which incorporates cultural traditions and teachings.
Language training would improve the level of care she can offer to the community. In
addition, Ms. Kopitz has children to whom she can teach the language.
Grace and Rita have also spoken with contacts at the Camperville Primary Health Care
Centre, where staff has expressed interest in learning Michif, for personal as well as
professional reasons. Many of their patients are elderly Michif speakers who may
experience a language barrier in receiving care. It is sensible for the program to target
health care providers, and perhaps school teachers, as they are in an ideal situation to use
and pass on the language.
College and university students may also be potential project participants. A student, for
example, could work for the Mtis Centre over the summer as a research assistant (wage
subsidies are available through the federal Aboriginal Human Resources Development
Agreements), participating in the language course and undertaking associated research
activities. Furthermore, it may be possible for a student to received academic credit,
through directed study under the auspices of a college or university professor, for their
participation in the course, particularly as there are currently no formal Michif language
immersion training at the college or university levels in Canada.
As part of the pilot project, it is anticipated that a Mtis Centre staff member, Tricia
Logan, a Michif woman living in Winnipeg, will participate in the immersion program, to
learn the language and, at the same time, engage in, and be responsible for, research
activities associated with the project.
Intended outcomes
a) Short term

Reports on research findings:


Detailed project report of the programs outcomes such as student
development, efficacy of the teaching method, cultural integration,
community support, application of language outside the classroom, etc.

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Practical implementation guide of lessons learned for individuals and


communities interested in implementing language immersion programs,
particularly on a shoe-string budget
Feasibility study on training Mtis heritage language speakers, particularly the
elderly, to facilitate language immersion programs in other Mtis communities
with endangered indigenous languages, i.e. Cree, Saulteaux, Dene, along with
associated costs
Report on available funding sources for teacher training and implementation of
language immersion programs
Creation of Michif language teaching and scholarly resources, i.e. plain language
guide on creating teaching archival resources on endangered Mtis languages
Explore partnership opportunities on making archival and teaching resources
accessible to Mtis interested in learning about Mtis languages, i.e. audio and
video recordings archived electronically (i.e. on-line) and in a common physical
location (i.e. Mtis educational institute)
Increased understanding by Mtis Centre of issues pertaining to language and
culture as social determinants of health vis--vis the concept of population health

b) Medium term

Evaluation of students post-program language use to further study the efficacy of


the master-apprentice learning method and the challenges in maintaining an
endangered language
Evaluation of teachers post-program activities such as taking new students or
other advocacy to study the challenges of teaching an endangered language
Explore partnership and funding opportunities to facilitate training of Michif and
other Mtis language speakers as teachers
Further research on social determinants of health building on these research
findings

c) Long term

Increased awareness and understanding of issues pertaining to the revitalization of


severely endangered Mtis languages; increased interest in and use of Mtis
languages
Evaluation of further community-based, Mtis language immersion programs,
refining methods utilized in this research project
Creation of further archival resources in association with community partners

Evaluation
There are two streams of project evaluation. The first is to monitor the students progress
in learning the language, as a means to evaluate the immersion programs success, which
is also useful to students and teachers in evaluating their own personal and professional
development. The second is overall project evaluation, to serve the Mtis Centres

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internal evaluation requirements that is, the projects overall success will be evaluated
in terms of its implementation process and short-term outcomes.
During the course of instruction, Grace and Rita provide ongoing student evaluation. This
is in addition to the evaluation methods described below.
a) Student/language program evaluation
The master-apprentice language immersion program has been uniquely adapted to Mtis,
community-based language instruction. As much as possible, evaluation efforts will
reflect the uniqueness of the instruction, a complement to learning activities as well as a
program evaluation tool. However, they will also conform to generally accepted
evaluation methods for students in language immersion programs of similar duration and
intensity. As part of the research project, evaluation will also inform a post-program
review of students progress in maintaining, and teaching to others, what they have
learned, in order to monitor medium- and long-term outcomes of the project.
Students evaluation monitors their progress in learning the language. Evaluation
methods are to be refined in cooperation with the language instructors, with the main
criteria being whether or not the student is reaching the targets established at the
beginning of the course. Through evaluation, the student is able to evaluate, and adjust,
his or her study habits. As such, this type of evaluation is an ongoing process. In
immersion situations, video recordings of the lessons at regular intervals, i.e. first and last
day, is a common evaluation tool.
Interviews with students and instructors will outline impressions of the program as well
as challenges and benefits of the type of instruction. This will be done before, during and
after the program. A six-month, one- and two- year evaluation of the students continued
use of the language is anticipated.
This evaluation is to be designed and implemented by a Mtis Centre staff member
familiar with the project, with assistance from an indigenous language expert from a
reputable outside organization.
Sample questions:

What was the students knowledge of the Michif language and culture prior to the
program?
Have the students tried to learn the language in other ways and have they been
successful?
Were the activities and implementation appropriate and respectful?
What is the impact on the personal lives of the individuals involved? Students?
Instructors?
How did learning the language impact your: cultural pride, health (intellectual,
spiritual, physical, emotional), connections to family and community, your
identity, desire to promote language, etc.?

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b) Overall project outcomes


The overall project will entail both process and outcome evaluation. Upon completion,
each stage will be evaluated so that project implementation may be adjusted for efficacy
on an ongoing basis. Outcome evaluation will focus on the extent to which the project
was implemented as intended and the extent to which short-term project outcomes have
been achieved. Ay unintended impacts, positive or negative, will be captured. In broad
terms, the evaluation will seek to identify implications for further activity such as
outlined in the medium- and long-term outcomes in relation to language as a social
determinant of health.
The evaluation will entail interviews with all project stakeholders, such as students,
families, community members and other project partners, and a review of the materials
arising from the research activities. This may be done by a Mtis Centre or NAHO staff
member or outside agency. Evaluation questions, indicators, data sources and methods
are to be developed in the early stages of project planning and implementation, as the
scope of some of the project objectives are being refined and as project partners come on
board. Timing of activities is also to be established.
Sample questions:

To what extent was the project implemented as intended?


How successful was the Mtis Centre in involving key stakeholders in the
planning and implementation?
What worked well? What worked not so well?
Were project resources adequate and were they used effectively?
What measures had to be taken to ensure that the entire implementation was
respectful of and in keeping with Mtis values?
To what extent did the project increase the knowledge and understanding of Mtis
community-based language immersion programs?
To what extent did the project increase the availability of information and
resources on implementing language immersion programs in Mtis communities?
To what extent were research findings disseminated and shared with stakeholders
and the Mtis population generally?

Research Plan
Note: the timeline of activities below is tentative and expected to change as the project
evolves.
Phase I
Phase I sets the stage for the immersion program and the research that follows. It will
involve practical measures to ensure the successful implementation of the immersion

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program. It will also entail research and planning in support of the proposed research
activities and project deliverable. Objectives include:

Recruiting students
Arranging accommodation
Briefing, and providing support to, instructors and students for their contribution
to the research project
Establishing project partnerships, as necessary, such as with community
organizations and academic institutions
Continued research on indigenous language immersion programs for comparative
purposes
Research and training, as necessary, on archiving language resources, with due
consideration for ethical concerns
Development of evaluation tools; completion of pre-program interviews with
teachers and students

Timeline of activities: April 1, 2007 to June 30, 2006.


Phase II
In Phase II, the immersion program is implemented and the research conducted. Support
is ongoing for students and teachers. Activities include:

Student and program evaluation


Ongoing gathering of research data through field researcher observations,
interviews with research subjects, audio and video recording, etc.

Timeline of activities: month of July 2007


Phase III
Phase III is the reporting stage, where the bulk of the data collected is assessed.
Deliverables include:

Report on research findings


Plain language implementation guide of lessons learned
Feasibility study on training Mtis heritage language speakers as immersion
teachers
Report on funding sources
Assessment of teaching and archival resources created during the course of the
project and recommendations for their future storage and use

Timeline of activities: Aug. 1, 2007 to Jan. 31, 2007

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Phase IV
Phase IV is about evaluation and exploring partnership and funding opportunities for
additional research and revitalization activities. Primarily, it will entail the overall
evaluation of project outcomes and, importantly, post-program evaluation of students
language use and teachers activities. While the project will effectively be over upon
completion of the short-term deliverables and the overall project evaluation, the Mtis
Centre may consider revisiting the students and teachers at intervals for, say, up to two
years after the immersion program. Such information is valuable to assessing the efficacy
of a short-duration immersion program and, provided the Mtis Centre continues to have
an interest in language and culture as social determinants of health, may offer a useful
contribution to other endeavours.
Budget
The following are rough estimates, as some of the costs are difficult to predict at this
early stage, particularly those related students travel and living expenses. See the
explanatory notes for further information. Staff time is not allocated.
Teacher stipends
Teaching material and activity budget

6,000
750

Student stipends*

8,000

Student living expenses**

4,800

Travel costs***

4,500

Incidental costs

2,500

DV camera and memory sticks****

2,500
29,050

* Immersion students may come from a mix of backgrounds, i.e. college students,
professionals, living near or far from Camperville. Immersion students may require a
stipend to offset loss of wages in order to participate. Alternatively, the Mtis Centre may
contract an individual to participate in the immersion program as a field researcher. The
sum, then, is a best guess at accommodating a mix of circumstances.
** A mix of accommodations may be necessary, with varying costs, including billet,
rental, camping (which would include such things as drinking water, hot plate, etc.)
*** MC staff will be required to travel to and from Camperville prior to the programs; as
well, likely students will be from outside the Camperville area. A staff member from
Ottawa may be required to travel to Camperville for evaluation purposes.

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**** Part of the project will be to record the teachers speaking Michif for further
instruction and archival purposes.

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