President's Message - February 01, 2024

February 1, 2024

February is "I Love to Read" month here in the heart of our Homeland. The goal is to encourage people - particularly children - to read more, and to enjoy the act of reading. I know the MMF will be an active participant in encouraging readership in young people, with representatives of our government going to schools to read books to students, educating them about Red River Métis history and culture.

Michif as part of early childhood education

There's no question that the best time to introduce new information and new skills is when we are young. Along with reading, we can use books and reading as a gateway to help youth learn new languages. That's why we are also actively engaging Red River Métis Youth in learning Michif as part of "I Love to Read Month."

It is our language, created by our Ancestors, and we must protect and nurture it. Right now, it remains a critically endangered language, with very few who grew up speaking it. The MMF remains dedicated to the preservation of our Red River Métis language. It's why we created a new portfolio dedicated to it, led by Minister Andrew Carrier. Even though having a portfolio dedicated to its preservation is relatively new, we have always been active in Michif preservation, and we will continue to make targeted investments to support it. This includes many different parts of our government working together to instill pride and knowledge at every age and stage of our Citizens' lives.

We begin teaching Michif to our children during their earliest learning years, through our childcare centres and resources provided to our licenced, home-based childcare facilities.

Books about our culture and language are always available to children and staff at the centres. Michif greetings like hello and welcome are posted on parent information boards at our centres, and children interact with puzzles, books, and blocks that provide them with both English and Michif words. Language games, memory games, stamps, and more include Michif words. Through day-to-day conversations, the staff at centres also incorporate daily teachings in Michif - often through the Michif word of the day, taken from our regularly posted "Michif Word of the Day" on our social media pages.

Of course, no early childhood education for Red River Métis children would be complete without music - songs in Michif are regularly introduced to our children, which helps them develop music literacy, as well as building on the acquisition of our language. Language Keepers are often guests at the childcare centres, so they can engage with children and encourage the use of Michif language in everyday ways - using Michif terms for colors, seasons, everyday clothing items, numbers, and more.

We also make sure resources are made available to parents at our childcare centres, through recipes, articles in newsletters, and other tools. We also include Michif language tools and activities in our My Little Métis boxes, which are designed to engage the whole family and are shipped to Citizens across the globe.

As you can see, your Red River Métis Government is committed to the preservation of Michif for children and their parents. However, these are not the only ways in which we are engaging Citizens with Michif resources. While it's important to introduce Michif at this critical early stage of development, we also know that it's also important to provide language tools to adults seeking to acquire more knowledge.

Ensuring long-term sustainability of Michif supports

It's important to understand that Indigenous Language programs previously funded directly by Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage have been revamped into a five-year program, which requires us to be more strategic in our approach, given the time limit. We're reorganizing our entire approach to Michif language supports, to ensure it has long-lasting benefits for all our Citizens, no matter where they live, particularly since our mandate has moved beyond Manitoba's borders.

The Louis Riel Institute (LRI) is an affiliate of the MMF committed to the revival of the Michif language as one of the roots of Red River Métis culture. LRI has a long history of partnering with MMF Regions and community and will maximize these relationships as it re-establishes and teaches the Michif language throughout the province and Homeland.

Some of our Citizens, particularly in the Southwest Region, will be aware of some of the changes we've needed to make to current programs, including the LRI MAP House in Brandon. The reality is that the LRI MAP House operated from April 1, 2023 until January 2024 without having any funding secured. The closing, although difficult, was a necessary decision.

The MMF is now in a position where we must ensure that all outstanding bills and costs are paid, and they must be paid by the MMF. This is how we can make sure the brand name of your Red River Métis Government is not in any way misunderstood or misrepresented as having outstanding debts. Let me be clear - these debts aren't ours and the decision to incur these debts was approved by others, without ensuring the funds are in place. We will clear up that financial challenge and move ahead with a strategy with a broader perspective that ensures Michif resources and supports are there for everyone we represent. It's unfortunate that this happened and it emphasizes the importance of ensuring all departments and affiliates report back to Cabinet to gain approval for initiatives. This ensures the funding is in place, and that we don't make decisions in isolation that could jeopardize our ability to continue supporting our Citizens in this generation, and the ones who follow.

This closure is part of the overall strategy to revamp LRI and ensure that it is effective and meets the needs of our people. The Institute is currently governed by provincial legislation, and answers to a Board of representatives from post-secondary institutions in Manitoba.

This is our language, and LRI is our institute. We need to be able to ensure that LRI remains viable and offers our Citizens culturally appropriate and targeted supports. We must have alignment in our Michif language programs, so that as many Red River Metis Citizens as possible have access to our language and culture.

New ways to support Michif preservation

The Michif language is more than just words. It's about building community, cultural renewal, and Red River Métis identity. Although LRI was unable to secure continued funding from Canada for the MAP house program, the MMF remains committed to preserving our Michif language.

We are now actively seeking proposals to promote Michif. Programs must have measurable outcomes, and ensure that every dollar is spent wisely. The application for funding is now up on the MMF website:

Each application will be reviewed by an advisory committee, to ensure it meets the goal of broadening access to Michif language resources.

Another way we will be expanding the accessibility of Michif resources is through the revival of Pemmican Publications. Minister Lagimodiere is hard at work reviving this arm of our government, so that we can produce more books in our language, as well as about our culture and history, to help learners acquire more of the language at every age and stage of their learning process.

I would like to thank Minister Andrew Carrier for his work in evolving the Michif language portfolio and Minister Joan Ledoux for her work ensuring the education system helps promote the Michif language. I also thank Minister Chartrand for her work ensuring that our very youngest Citizens learn Michif in our childcare centres.

Our language, like our culture, are important parts of our inheritance from our Ancestors, and we will never allow them to be extinguished.

Until we meet again, I offer my prayers to all our families, Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.



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