By D. Vienneau
Ogoki Learning Inc. was founded on the principles of revitalizing and preserving the world’s ancestral languages using modern technology that is user- and classroom-friendly. Ogoki is an Indigenous-owned full-service language app development company that helps its clients maintain their own apps and develop new ones.
Years ago, entrepreneur Darrick Baxter realized his daughter wasn’t learning their language (Ojibwe) despite his best efforts, and certainly not from the educational materials he had purchased (books, CDs, etc.). Being an experienced technologist, he wrote the code for a new language application. He never planned to release the app; however, a single event in his home changed everything. After hearing his daughter speak Ojibwe to her grandmother by using the app, Baxter knew he had to make the application available to everyone. He released it on the App Store and distributed it for free—so that others could experience a similar magical moment.
After seeing the positive results within his own family, he knew he needed to do more—to help revitalize the 6,000-plus languages that are at risk of disappearing over the next century. So he did something crazy—he released the app source code online, allowing every single tribe to download, distribute and use it. This is how Ogoki Learning Inc. began.
Strengthening Global Languages
The initial goal of the first language app was to provide teachers with a tool to assist them in teaching the Ojibwe language in the classroom. After releasing the source code (almost 10 years ago now) and gaining considerable media attention from around the globe, Ogoki Learning Inc. began its language revitalization efforts, helping tribes all over the world.
With an upsurge of phone calls and increased global interest, Ogoki Learning Inc. has gone on to create more than 170 language apps and interactive learning tools across Turtle Island.
In 2015, with Ogoki’s global efforts established, Baxter was invited to present a TEDx Talk in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “Accomplishing something of great magnitude is by no means a one-person job,” Baxter told the audience. “We all have a responsibility to save these tribal languages.”
To put it into perspective, Baxter described what it is like to get a phone call from a tribe that has only two or three living speakers left. “It’s very humbling,” he said. “Their languages could be gone tomorrow. Their Elders could be gone tomorrow, taking with them thousands of words, thousands of phrases and hundreds of years of oral history.”
As his words sunk in, he further urged his audience, “By downloading a language app, we can all help strengthen global languages today.”
What They Offer
Ogoki Learning Inc. does it all, from software development to training, editing to everything in between. If you’re up to speed on all things technology (and even if you’re not), you’ll be thrilled to know that Ogoki offers six innovative language apps: Single Device Language App; Multiple Device Language App; Universal Premium Language App (their most popular to-date); Full Immersion Language App (ideal for schools); Web-Based Desktop App; and the Virtual Village Language App, which takes students into historical sites and traditional territories, learning skills like hunting and fishing in 360° virtual reality.
Language Projects and Initiatives
Over the summer, Ogoki Learning Inc. led a week-long workshop and developed the Moose 101 Anishinaabemowin Language App featuring different parts of a moose for the Wiikwemikong Board of Education in Ontario, Canada. “The reason why we wanted the app was because most of our educators don’t speak the language,” said Sandra Peltier, Lead Program Teacher with the Wiikwemkoong Anishinaabemowin Kinoomaagewin. “The next phase is to create a proposal to combine language and land-based connections.”
Currently, Ogoki Learning Inc. is developing a Universal Premium Language App and a customized Language Game App with Aaniiih Nakoda College in Harlem, Montana, USA. They are also working with Blackfeet Community College (Browning, Montana) on a new Universal Language App, an updated version of an earlier app with a new look and audio recordings.
“By blending the future of technology with the history of tribal language, Blackfeet Community College (BCC) has developed Montana’s first Native American language application for smartphone users. The BBC Blackfeet Culture and Language Division has teamed up with Ogoki Learning and has developed the first of many apps for the Blackfeet language.” (“Language Revitalization: At Tribal Colleges and Universities”. 1993-2018. Tribal College Press.)
The company has also developed a customized Band Housing App that will provide data management software for housing authorities and departments across Canada’s First Nations, and interactive VR apps for Native American museums and historical places.
In July 2019, Ogoki Learning Inc. expanded to Southeast Asia and opened an office in Taipei, Taiwan. This expansion gives Ogoki the ability to complete projects on a global scale with less development time and greater quality, thus improving their existing clients’ apps.
Darrick Baxter – President and CEO of Ogoki Learning Inc.
Entrepreneur Darrick Baxter is one of Canada’s most prominent app developers and North America’s leading technologist in the field of Language Revitalization. With over 170 apps in the App Store, and more apps featured on the front page of Apple iTunes than any other company in Canada, Baxter is recognized internationally as a leader in tribal business. He is best known for delivering an inspirational TEDx Talk on the subject of Technology and Innovation, and Mobile App Development. His work has also been featured on CTV National News, CBC Newsworld, ABC News, CBC Radio, NPR, Voice of America and other journal publications. Baxter is the leading visionary and pioneer behind OjibwayTV, a streaming Ojibway language service, and the First Nation Band Housing App that organizes housing inventory on First Nations.
Baxter served as a computer science instructor for the University of Winnipeg’s PACE program before starting his career as an entrepreneur and becoming a member of the board of directors for OLPC (One Laptop Per Child). A keynote speaker for various events including Startup Canada Prairies and a panelist at the 2019 Chief Information Officers Annual Conference, Baxter devotes his time to helping create the next generation of app developers and has trained over 280 Indigenous learners. He currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan.