Aboriginal Education Research Forum 2019

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Violet Okemaw Photo

Dr. Violet Okemaw

Violet Okemaw, originally from Berens River First Nation, speaks fluent Anishinaabe and commends her parents and grandparents for her strong linguistic and cultural background. In 1984, Violet received her Bachelor of Education degree and later graduated with Master in Education Degree at the University of Manitoba. She has taught elementary and secondary students and was as a school administrator, and has worked with MFNERC for several years. Violet defended her PhD, dissertation in September 2018 at the University of Alberta. Violet has two daughters and one granddaughter.

Violet’s keynote address will focus on her dissertation study, Anishinaabe Language and Literacies: Teachers’ Practices in Manitoba. The purpose of the study was to develop a deeper understanding of the relationships among Anishinaabe language and literacies, Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), and bimaadiziwin (“a way of life” in the Anishinaabe language) by exploring current Aboriginal language teaching and learning practices. The dissertation’s research is based on a theoretical and conceptual framework reflective of an Indigenous perspective in order to address the following research questions: (1) How are Anishinaabe language teachers incorporating IKS and bimaadiziwin into their Indigenous language and literacies programs? (2) What experiences and resources can these teachers identify that would enhance their ability to incorporate IKS and bimaadiziwin into their teaching of Aboriginal languages and literacies in the classroom?  Violet found that despite a lack of resources for these language programs, the Anishinaabe language teachers in her study were providing amazingly deep cultural and linguistic foundations within their classrooms by utilizing their own Indigenous knowledge and bimaadiziwin as the foundation of their teaching and learning practices. Violet’s PhD journey resonates with the goals and principles of 2019’s distinction as the Year of International Indigenous Languages.

Mr. Norman Fleury Photo

Mr. Norman Fleury

Norman Fleury has championed the Michif language for many years and he is considered and expert and an Elder in this field. Norman Fleury, originally from St. Lazare, Manitoba, is a gifted Michif storyteller and Michif language specialist. He speaks Michif-Cree, Cree, Ojibwa, Dakota, French, and English. Tireless in the promotion and preservation of the Michif-Cree language, he has contributed to dozens of language resources, including dictionaries, grammar books, and he has provided innumerable translations for cultural resources. Norman has been employed as a life skills trainer, a university coordinator, a corrections worker, a group home worker, and he served as the executive director of the Brandon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre, and was the Manitoba Métis Federation’s Michif Language Program Director. He presently works with the University of Saskatchewan. As a keynoter, Norman brings his love of languages that reflect the 2019 Year of International Indigenous Languages in multiple perspectives in contemporary times.