Why Bear Clan volunteers are learning a new language

Volunteers with the Bear Clan Patrol are learning to speak Ojibway as a way to connect with the community they serve.

“At Bear Clan we’re looking to do more along the lines of cultural and traditional things,” said Kevin Walker, interim executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol, in an interview on Monday.

For five weeks, an Ojibway language instructor is walking with the group on Sundays to teach volunteers some common phrases, the alphabet and even how to make bannock.

Some of the phrases they are learning to say include: do you need help and can we offer you water.

Walker explained the instructor is providing a hands-on learning experience that’s focused on engaging with the community.

“[It’s] taking the classroom out of the teachings. It’s really a great experience for us,” Walker said.

The group also plans to learn some other languages as well, and is planning to partner with a Cree language instructor next month.

Walker said it’s important for the group to be able to connect with the city’s most vulnerable residents, adding that there’s a lot of Indigenous people in the community they serve. He said it makes a difference to interact with people in their own language, as it makes them feel more comfortable.

“I think it’s important that we try to include all the dialects if we can,” Walker said.

He added that the Bear Clan is dedicated to getting involved with Indigenous cultural and traditional practices.

“We’re trying to bring back as much and offer as much culture as we can,” Walker said.

– With files from CTV’s Katherine Dow.

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