NIPISSING FIRST NATION – (CCNMatthews – June 20, 2006) – Chiefs of the 42 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation have unanimously created an official language policy.
During their June 12-14 annual Grand Council Assembly, the Chiefs endorsed a resolution declaring that the official language of the Anishinabek Nation is Anishinaabe-mowin, or the Ojibwe language.

“This is a historic decision for our First Nations, and a significant step in coming out from under colonial rule and restoring our own Nationhood,” said John Beaucage, who was acclaimed by the Chiefs to serve another term as their Grand Council Chief. The Grand Council Assembly serves as a traditional annual gathering for member communities of the Anishinabek Nation, as well as the annual general meeting of the Union of Ontario Indians Inc.

“Our language is sacred, and protecting and restoring it is a priority for our Chiefs,” said Beaucage. “It is the vision of this official language policy that our people will once again think in Anishinaabe-mowin by ensuring that Ojibwe is once again the language of our ceremonies, our gatherings, and our working life.”

The official language policy is in step with the Anishinabek Nation’s unanimous support for the establishment of the Anishinaabe-Mushkegowuk-Onkwehonwe Language Commission that will support the language development needs of all First Nations in Ontario. Outgoing Deputy Grand Chief Nelson Toulouse, who did not seek re-election, was officially appointed as Commissioner to this new body that was modeled after the Maori language commission in New Zealand.

The resolution states that “the Anishinabek Chiefs-in-Assembly hereby declare that Anishinaabe-mowin, shall herein and forever, be the official language of the Anishinabek Nation… and “hereby acknowledge that English is the language of the Crown and is a working language of our people”.

The official language policy also adopts immersion programs as the preferred method of instruction in Anishinabek Nation schools.

“Ojibwe as a second language or conventional Ojibwe language instruction shall be phased out in favour of immersion and fluency programs for school-aged children,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.

The resolution also calls for the establishment of workplace immersion programs and learning opportunities for First Nation employees.

The resolution commits the Chiefs-in-Assembly to encourage and support “opportunities for learning, and that each member of the Anishinabek Nation civil service shall be granted two weeks of language development leave and/or workplace language immersion programming.”

Anishinabek Nation Headquarters on Nipissing First Nation will implement the workplace language programming this summer. Satellite offices located in Thunder Bay, Curve Lake and Muncey-Deleware will follow suit soon after.

The 42 member First Nations will mandate and regulate the official language policy through their respect Band Councils, Agencies, Boards and Commissions by the year 2010.

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario.