Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion Program

The Niigaane Ojibwe Immersion Program (Niigaane) was established in 2003 to revitalize ojibwemowin, the Ojibwe language, on the Leech Lake Reservation, Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag. At the time, Niigaane was one of two Ojibwe language immersion programs across the nation.

Johnny Mitchell, a respected Leech Lake first speaker and elder chose niigaane as the name of the Ojibwe language immersion program. Niigaane is a combination of phonetic and double vowel system spelling. In the double vowel system, the word appears as niigaanii, which translates to “She or he leads.” As the program name signifies, Niigaane is creating a new generation of ojibwemowin speakers and future leaders.

The revitalization effort was initiated and led by Adrian “Naabek” Liberty. Niigaane began as a Kindergarten class at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School located in Bena, Minnesota. In 2006, first and second grade classes were added, and by 2010, Niigaane was comprised of Kindergarten through sixth grade classes. The focus of Niigaane is not to teach ojibwemowin, but to utilize ojibwemowin as the medium of instruction in all subjects.

Niigaane is a distinctive program as it actively involves collaboration between Leech Lake Reservation first speaker elders and teachers who have learned ojibwemowin as their second language. Elders, teachers, and students are addressed exclusively by their Ojibwe spirit names. Subject areas are instructed in ojibwemowin, and students are taught ojibwemowin within the values and traditions of the Ojibwe culture.

In 2010, Niigaane was featured in the documentary First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language, which was honored with a regional Emmy Award.

Today, Niigaane continues to provide instruction for Kindergarten through sixth grade.

Niigaane Staff

Heather Brittain -
Maggie Goodwin -
Camille Naslund Ed.D. -
Stephany Morgan -
Gerrie Howard -