In early July, Valerie Tanner, program director for the Ojibwe Language and Culture Program at St. Scholastica, gave three work-study students an assignment: Make a movie. Use only Ojibwe language. Keep it simple.
Four months, 70 hours of filming and 40 hours of editing later, Chelsae Annette, Amanda Horton and Edye Howes finished their movie and posted it on You-Tube, where it gained over 100 views within the first week.
"It was the most work I’ve ever done, but it was worth it," said Chelsea Annette, OLCE student and principle contributor to the film.
OLCE program coordinator Bill Howes said the film was a part of the OLCE’s mission to increase awareness of the OLCE on campus and also showcase what students are doing as part the program’s goal, which is to increase the number of American Indian teachers in Minnesota.
"In our program we strive to help students use the language and share it with others," Howes said. "It’s not just come here and sit in class, but it is understanding the Ojibwe history, culture and language along with making it functional."
OLCE, a four-year major paired with elementary education, "prepares students to be proficient in the Ojibwe language, and establishes a solid foundation in Ojibwe culture, traditions, and history," with the hope that students will use these skills in teaching positions, on a reservation or in a public school.
"Ojibwe history is good information for everyone," Howes said. "Whether our students end up teaching at a tribal school or a school with 10 percent American Indian, as long as they’re teaching it it's beneficial."
OLCE is focused on using the language of their elders, said Howes. They go beyond just studying the language, they learn the language as a functional tool in society.
Though OLCE staff is employed by the college the program is funded by grants from the federal government.
"It’s rare to have a college/non-tribal entity that would fully support students gaining a better understanding of a past culture," Howes said.
Despite relying on the federal government for funding, Howes said the program owes a lot to the education department.
"It would be nearly impossible for us to have our program without our education department," Howes said. "It’s a huge part of our success."
Both Annette and Edye Howes, who played the weather girl in the film, say they eventually plan on teaching at a university and integrating Ojibwe culture into their classrooms.
"The education major was a career move for me, and the OLCE major is more of a personal move for me," Edye Howes said. "After all, the Ojibwe language and culture make me who I am."
Annette, who did all the editing for the film, said that there is nothing like using her native tongue, and that making the movie provided her a way to show the joy and fun that the students in the OLCE have.
"I wanted to show that you can have fun while learning the language," Annette said. "We’re learning our language, we’re learning our culture, but we’re also having fun."
Having never made a movie before, Annette said that making the movie also provided her the opportunity to learn skills all teachers should have.
"If we want to make it fun in the classroom, we have to do it ourselves," Annette said.
Describing Ojibwe as an underappreciated and endangered language, Annette said that Ojibwe is a traditional oral language that was used even before English. Annette is determined to preserve her native language.
"I want to bring the language to anyone who is curious about it and keep it alive and growing," Annette said.
Edye Howes said the use of technology was a crucial aspect of the film and greatly contributed to challenge the concept that Ojibwe is a dead language.
"In this day and age technology is 'what’s happening' so to do a video in all Ojibwe shows that we can stay connected to ourselves as well as stay connected to the present-day changes in our society," Edye Howes said. "The more the language is utilized the more alive it is."
Annette hopes that the video will inspire people to make their own videos and increase passion within the department.
"I wanted to push myself and he program to set the bar higher for incoming students and future generations," Annette said.
Along with general viewings in You-Tube, Howes said the movie wil be used to funders the product of what students learn and are able to do, teaching material and also recruitment.
"We want prospective students to know that they won’t just come here and study the language, but that they will have opportunities to use it," Howes said. "We hope that whoever comes upon it that it will be beneficial to them in some way."