By Kevin Roach
Mary Hermes, University of Minnesota professor with years of experience in education, and her husband Kevin Roach, an Ojibwe artist with expertise in tribal art and computer graphics, founded the nonprofit organization Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia (GIM) with the mission of developing materials designed to teach Ojibwe and other Native American languages.
GIM began recording videos of conversations between elders at language camps and other venues. For Ojibwe and many other indigenous languages, it is the everyday, conversational language that is least documented but most useful words and phrases for beginning learners. It was their original intention to simply publish the translated and transcribed videos on a website or youtube.
But in the process of applying for grants to support GIM’s work, Mary heard about Transparent Language from Ed McDermott at the U.S. Department of Education. He told them that Transparent had unique language tools and might be willing to let them use these tools to develop Ojibwe materials. Mary quickly contacted Michael Quinlan, CEO of Transparent Language, who offered his enthusiastic support, and a simple idea started growing into something big.