Some of the nation’s top Ojibwe language scholars came to the Mille Lacs Band Assembly meeting at Meshakwad Community Center on December 17 to provide an update on two important language revitalization projects.
Dr. Anton Treuer of Bemidji State University gave a presentation with support from staff of Waadookodaading Ojibwe Immersion School and other members of the Anjibimaadizing Ojibwe Language Strategic Planning Committee.
Anton explained that the two projects — publication of three Ojibwe-language books and development of a Rosetta Stone language-learning app — are being funded by an over- age in federal dollars paid to the Aanjibimaadizing Program.
An Elder Advisory Board made up of Lee Staples, Brenda Moose, and Joe Nayquonabe Sr. urged Aanjibimaadizing Director Tammy Wickstrom and Commissioner of Administration Baabiitaw Boyd to use the funds to support language and culture in order to create jobs as well as healthier individuals and communities.
Twenty-five first speakers of Ojibwe were identified and brought together with young language learners to produce three Ojibwe-language story books, which will be illustrated by Ojibwe artists Steve Premo, Wesley Ballinger, and Jonathan Thunder.
They also decided to contact Rosetta Stone Inc. to develop an Ojibwe language app. (See page 4 for more information on the Rosetta Stone project.)
The language revitalization group believes that language and culture give individuals a stronger identity and ability to contribute to their families and community.
"Too often we've had people outside Native communities saying 'We know what's best for you,' with a focus on a white set of goals," said Anton. "We need our version of this, and our language, our culture, our ways, and the intergenerational transmission of this information is the best way to build healthy tribal com- munities."
Anton shared about psychological research known as the "rat park" experiment, which showed that rats raised in a healthy environment were far less likely to engage in destructive behaviors like drug use.
He also spoke about language revitalization efforts in Hawaii, which show that it’s possible to bring a language back from the brink of extinction.
District I Representative Sandi Blake said "miigwech" to the group for all they are doing to preserve and revitalize the Ojibwe language.