Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Miskwaagamiiwi'zaaga'iganing Gichi-Ojibwemowin Maawanji'idwin - P2

(Red Lake Ojibwe Language Summit) Held at Seven Clans Event Center

"Whereas The Red Lake Tribal Council is the duly elected governing body of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians; and is the responsibility of the council to promote and protect the health, security and general welfare of Red Lake Nation; and as many Indigenous languages have vanished or are in danger of disappearing if they are not preserved or promoted; and that the Council strongly supports the preservation of the Ojibwe language for the benefit of future generations; be it resolved The Red Lake Tribal Council hereby declares Ojibwe the official language of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians." ~Resolution No. 59-10, April 27, 2010. Passed Unanimously 10-0.

Thus it began!

With cultural interest is growing among the people, more and more activities are being planned as Red Lake prepares to take even bigger steps toward Ojibwe language and culture revitalization.

The current initiative began with the resolution above. A small organizational meeting, called by Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., followed in September 2011 at Little Rock Round House. Since then language/culture events held include; the Sobriety Runs, language revitalization celebrations at Ponemah and Little Rock, a three day Ojibwe Language and Cultural Camp for Youth, and a culture/language event held at the Middle School.

The Language Summit held at Seven Clans Casino on Monday evening December 16 and Tuesday, December 17, was only the most recent of many happenings Red Lake Anishinaabeg are pursing in order to revitalize Ojibwemowin and the culture of the land.

The Summit served as a celebration, a gathering space, for members of the community to learn about their language, to network with fellow learners and speakers, and to collaborate on new exciting initiatives.

A chilly Monday evening would not deter some 200 people from gathering at the Seven Clans Event Center to attend a community celebration and feast. The gathering would mark the onset of the Miskwaagamiiwi'zaaga'iganing Gichi-Ojibwemowin Maawanji'idwin. (Red Lake Ojibwe Language Summit)

The event drew many first and other fluent speakers, elders, and scores of others interested in various aspects of Ojibwemowin revitalization. Most came from Red Lake, but many came from other tribes and/or communities.

The evening included excellent food, good conversation, hand drumming, and dancing. The emcee was Gichi-Binesi (Darren Defoe), the Arena Director Willy Strong. Tonight...summit goers would celebrate, in the morning they would get to work.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

At 8 a.m., people began trickling into the Seven Clans Casino Event Center, some from the hotel area, others from the parking lot. Most collected fruit and pastries at a continental breakfast before settling in at a table, sipping a cup of hot coffee, and visiting with old and new friends.

At about 9:00 a.m., co-emcees Willie Strong and Wesley Cloud announced the Drums for the Summit; Eyabay, Young Kingbird, NDN Creek, and Red Lake Singers. After an invocation by Spiritual Advisor Frank Dickinson, Strong introduced Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., who would welcome the crowd.

"Ojibwe is the official language of Red Lake," said Jourdain, "and that's not just a public relations thing, we want to make it so! Many things can be done, including encouraging more language and culture in our schools. It is good to see so many people interested in helping with this important task. Thank you for the work you are about to do."

Keynote: Kaweienon:ni (Margaret Peters)

The first key-note address was from Kaweienon:ni (Margaret Peters) Snipe Clan of the Onondaga Nation, Mohawk of Akwesasne, and fluent Mohawk speaker.

Ms. Peters currently works for the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education as a Kanien'keha (Mohawk Language) Specialist, developing Mohawk language and cultural resources for their school system for both Mohawk Language Program and for the Skahwatsi:ra (One Family/One Nation Immersion School). She also teaches grade four math and Mohawk Language to grade five and six students transitioning from immersion.

She has a certificate in Iroquois in Linguistics though Syracuse University. She taught Immersion Methodology for Queen's University, Advanced Mohawk for North Country Community College, and reading and writing Mohawk Language for Fluent Speakers at the Iohahi:io Adult Education Program.

Peters is a mother of four fluent speakers and grandmother of "several"...four of whom are fluent in the Mohawk Language. Indeed her grandson, who had accompanied her, bravely told a little about himself in Mohawk, and then sang a song while accompanying himself with a rattle.

"Kids are like sponges," Peters reminded all, "one thing we have to remember as an immersion school teacher, is that it is too easy to slip into English, we can't do that. At the beginning we may have to act it out or somehow to get the point across." She then demonstrated how teaching immersion works by speaking Mohawk, to Ojibwe attendees, instructing them to stand up or sit down in the Mohawk language while employing hand gestures. "Make it fun," says Peters.

She closed her presentation by showing about 15 minutes of film taken at the Mohawk immersion school. Scenes showed kids speaking the language, singing songs, and participating in a number of other language and cultural activities.

The Kana:takon Immersion School was started in 1995. They have 1,500 speakers in a population of 13,000. The

Reserve is contained within two provinces and one state, Ontario, Quebec and New York.

Keynote: Chi-Ma'iingan (Larry Stillday) The second keynote speaker of the morning was Chi-Ma'iingan/Great Wolf (Larry Stillday). Stillday is the Red Lake Spiritual/Cultural advisor for many tribal programs including the language revitalization efforts. He is a member of the Makwa Doodem (Bear Clan) of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

Stillday recently retired as supervisor of the Ponemah Outpatient Program, where he utilized the White Bison curriculum for his group teachings. He is an Ojibwemowin first speaker with extensive knowledge on traditions, medicine wheel, and sweat lodge teachings. He is recognized as a traditional teacher, and conducts sensitivity trainings around the state, most recently the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Chi-Ma'iingan is the inspiration behind the Red Lake Coalition which is a reservation-wide community organization that helps coordinate Healing Day and other wellness type events.

Larry lives in Kelliher with his wife Violet. She is a great help to Larry in his work and is most often seen at his side.

Culture, Language and the Teachings of the Medicine Wheel.

Stillday uses a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the teachings and many layers of the Medicine Wheel. "Thank you for coming to listen to this," Stillday began.

"The Great Spirit made everything in creation to always grow as a system of circles and cycles. Anything that has life always follows a circular and cyclic principle," said Stillday.

"Our language and culture go hand in hand," he said. "Gichi-Manidoo (the Creator) put in place a set of principles, laws and values for all life forms to live by and to guide our earth journey. Anything that has life must abide by these principles. Gichi-Manidoo put those lessons everywhere in nature."

"Our language comes from actions at the beginning of time," Chi-Ma'iingan went on. "It goes back to our creation story where Nanabozho and Ma'iingan, then companions, put our language in nature by naming everything on earth, giving everything an Ojibwe name. Therefore our language is in nature. Our language is there, and it is still alive. Our language is very powerful when we use it in the circle."

"We all walk the circle from babe to elder, but don't get stuck, my wife sometimes says that I'm stuck in my 'terrible twos,'" said a smiling Stillday.

Stages of life:

1. Trust (as a newborn)

2. Autonomy (I can do it)

3. Initiative (Imagination)

4. Accomplishment (I am good)

5. Identity (who am ? why am I here?)

6. Intimacy (able to relate to the world)

7. Generosity (giving)

8. Integrity (understanding, wisdom)

"If you missed going through any of these stages, they don't go away," noted Chi-Ma'iingan, "they are still there until we go through it. And so we walk the wheel. It started when we were told as young children not to color outside the lines. It's okay to color outside the lines."

"Start to listen to the things of nature," said Stillday. "Our language is in nature and consequently is still in us. Listen to what your heart is talking about. I learn by observing. I watch and then I understand me. When you learn this, everything is alive. If nature is alive then our language is alive. We talked with nature and "they" gave us crap for that, and now "they" talk with geckos," he quipped.

"The youth are fulfilling the Prophesy. We are seeing young people with old spirits, they will sing the old songs. The young are going to the elders and offering asemaa (tobacco), this is appropriate, this is good," Stillday concluded.

During lunch, participants enjoyed student language presentations from Red Lake High School, presided over by teacher Tami Liberty, and Niigaane Immersion School, conducted by its director Saagajiwe (Leslie Harper) and Adrian Liberty.

Break-Out Sessions

The afternoon consisted of two break-out sessions, one beginning at 1:15 p.m., the other at 3. Each major session consisted of four break-out groups. Each group was led by a panel who would lead discussion on a topic. Activities were held in event center rooms labeled in Ojibwemowin, Ogiishkimanisii (Kingfisher), Migizi (Bald Eagle), Awaazisii (Bullhead), and Waabizheshi (Pine Marten).

Session One's first group discussed Tribal Policy. How can the tribal council and it's programs encourage members and others to get involved with language and culture revitalization? Ideas included advocating a comprehensive tribal policy, and financial support for Ojibwemowin. Participants thought a centralized resource space for community members to learn, and to view Ojibwemowin resource materials would be valuable.

The second group discussed Adult Language Immersion, to develop immersion events and opportunities for adults and families. "We need to teach the parents Ojibwemowin," observed Spiritual Elder Miskwaanakwad/Red Cloud (Eugene Stillday). "Many young ones learn Ojibwe in school, and many elders speak the language, we need to teach those in between, to target the parents."

The third groups topic was Master Apprentice: Strategies on Learning the Language. "Fluent speaking elders will be key," said elder and first-speaker Zhaawanwe'wiidamok (Frances Miller). "They may need to be encouraged to share their knowledge, give advice, and participate in this important initiative."

The fourth group was full of energy, the Youth Break-out Session involving Red Lake High School students, and Niigaane Immersion School students.

After a fifteen minute break, the second break-out session of the afternoon was held.

Group one of the Second Session conversed about Ojibwe Immersion Schools for youth. Discussion centered on potential "Red Lake Immersion School Project" partners. The development of immersion schools will hopefully continue with the collaboration of skilled and fluent speaking community members, Red Lake School District, Red Lake Head Start, and Red Lake College among other potential groups and entities. Ojibwemowin should to be integrated into existing kids programs, then supported and expanded.

The Topic Two panel considered Community Language Events. Ideas discussed included developing and supporting community Ojibwemowin events e.g. the recent culture event at the Middle School, language tables, family camps, etc. Technology should be encouraged e.g. use of PowerPoint, YouTube videos, language tapes, etc. These events should use innovative public relations, and outreach.

The topic three session was conducted by Waasabiik (Anna Gibbs). The subject was Cultural & Spiritual teachings.

Culture does not exist without language! Language is our connection to our past, to values, our land, to nature, and to the Creator. Cultural and spiritual events should go hand-in-hand with language, Teachings are needed on the use of tobacco and other sacred medicines, clan teachings, medicine wheel, etc.

The fourth break-out groups subject was Developing Language Materials & Teaching Tools. Ojibwemowin materials need to be developed in the Red Lake dialect. The wisdom and experience of Elders and their stories need to be recorded and possibly used in teaching methods. Development of a book of language and cultural resources was also discussed.

One area explored was posting Ojibwemowin signage on the reservation thinking it to be an easy and inexpensive first step. Some programs have already posted signage including Red Lake Chemical Health, Red Lake Economic Development, and Red Lake DNR.

Signage would concentrate in two areas; buildings and street signs. Main roads would receive Ojibwe names first. Smaller roads would be named or translated later in consultation with the area's residents A strategy for either renaming tribal buildings or translating the existing names into Ojibwemowin was considered. "New Beginnings" has already been translated to "Oshki-maajiitaawinan".

The need for consistency in the spelling of Ojibwe was deliberated. All concurred that Red Lake should encourage the use of the "double vowel" system. The "double vowel system" is used at Ojibwemowin immersion schools, public schools and colleges, and is the preferred spelling used in books being written in Ojibwe, and bilingual publications. The Nichols/Nyholm Dictionary is the book of reference for the "double vowel system." It was emphasized that although the "double vowel system" will be used in teaching, many first speakers use "folk spelling"...and that it is NOT wrong, only different.

"When we have immersion schools on the Rez, we will be telling everyone that this is how we sound, this is who we are," said cultural advisor Keith Lussier. "Some understand but do not know how to use or speak the language. By learning the language, we learn more about our culture. We learn about drum carriers, pipe carriers, it will all come back if we speak it. Fluent speakers need to step up and teach."

Panel participants included not only people from Red Lake, but also Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Fon du Lac and the Twin Cities. They included; (Waasabiik) Anna Gibbs, Chi-Ma'iingan (Larry Stillday), Miskwaanakwad (Eugene Stillday), Netamigaabawiik, (Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird), Zhaawanwe'wiidamok (Frances Miller), Susan Johnson, Eliza Johnson, Gertie RedEagle, Keith Lussier, Carol and John Barrett, Ozaawaanakwadok (Susan Ninham), Waagosh (Anton Treuer), Saagajiwe (Leslie Harper), Zaawaanakwad (Jim White), Donald Iceman, Wezaawibinesiik (Lucia Bonacci), Amik O'gaabaw (Larry "Amik" Smallwood), Obizaan (Lee Staples), Ombishkebines (Chato Gonzalez).

Some staffers included; Bimose Giniw (Sam Strong), Mishkwaizii Giniw (Thomas Barrett Sr.), Karen Barrett, Anangokwe (Elizabeth Strong), Makadewigaabawik (Margueritte Secola), Gegwejigaabaw (Nate Taylor), Binesi-bi-dagoshin (Zack Mitteness), Tami Liberty, Endaso Giizhik (Justin Beaulieu), and Biidaanakwad.

The information and ideas generated at the summit will be compiled, shared, and used as a template for a possible Red Lake Tribal Council resolution for a more comprehensive language revitalization plan.

Closing Chi-Ma'iingan (Larry Stillday)

At about 4:30 p.m., Chi-Ma'iingan made the "closing" short and simple thus ensuring attention. "We are doing as our ancestors did. The people were asked, and then all came together and pooled their wisdom. We're not closing, we are just beginning. Thank you for sharing with me."

Dinner and a give-away followed Chi-Ma'iingan's words. The upbeat event was considered by all to be a wonderful success. The effort was Coordinated by Red Lake Economic Development and Planning and Red Lake Chemical Health Programs.

Red Lake Nation Language Revitalization Plan

Vision and Mission: It is our vision that within 10 years Red Lake will have a younger generation of fluent speakers that promote the language and culture in our communities and act as leaders for the next seven generations. It is our mission to promote this vision through an immersion school as well as through a variety of other initiatives.

Red Lake Economic Development and Planning office invites anyone to contact their office if you have project ideas for Ojibwemowin Language Revitalization within our Red Lake Nation community!

Postscript

Why? Culture is Prevention!

There is a great beauty to the language and culture of the Red Lake Ojibwe.

"According to the 2011 Adult Health Survey, a majority of the tribe's four districts agreed that culture helps them stay sober. Sixty-nine percent of 2012 Community Readiness Survey respondents, indicated that they agreed/strongly that commitment to cultural heritage can prevent substance abuse problems." ~Red Lake Chemical Health

 

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