Update: Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee Meets
Elders Develop 20-Year Plan for Ojibwemowin Revitalization
A mixture of elders/first speakers, teachers, and staff for Red Lake's Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee traveled toward Ponemah Point in a dozen vehicles on Monday, November 9, 2015. They would meet from 3:30 until about 6:00 p.m. The temperature was in the mid-50's, warm for mid-November. But dark comes early this time of year, and it's cooling fast as the sun moves slowly to the western horizon.
Just a bit before the road curves to the point, cars and trucks took a left and drove a 3/4-mile or more back into the woods toward the lake. The journey into the forest is on a beautiful curving road with trees of all sizes hugging the one lane path. Soon and suddenly, the sun and a clearing appear. Off to the right front in the distance, is a traditional structure known as a Round House. It is simple in its' beauty and elegance. This is a special place.
Beyond the structure is a tree line, and beyond that is the largest fresh water lake wholly contained within one state, a sacred body of water known by the Ojibwe People of Red Lake as Misquagamiiwi-zaaga'iganing.
It's a little chilly inside as folks enter the building from the east. The only other door, on the opposite wall to the west, is also open. Outside, a young man splits red pine for kindling, and black ash for heat. Another young man starts and stokes a fire in a wood-burning stove near the west door. Tables are set up beneath the cupola at the center of the building. Sunbeams stream in from cupola windows aiding the electric lights illuminating the otherwise windowless Round House.
The Ojibwemowin Council were gathered for their monthly meeting, and as the place began to warm, participants took seats at the three tables at the center. The group gathers each month to develop additional language materials and teaching tools for Red Lake Head Start Ojibwe Immersion School.
After an opening prayer and the blessing of a Spirit Dish by Anna Gibbs, Dr. Giniwgiizhig, Curriculum Writer, Head Start Immersion Classroom, opened the meeting with announcements, then invited everyone to eat. A fine meal of natural foods was served. Much of the meal was prepared by Carol Barrett which included wild rice hot dish, a potato and wild rice soup, fresh berries, venison, and outside bread.
If the Head Start Immersion school is to be successful, many words must be developed for subjects such a science and math in order to keep the language alive. Unlike many languages that might borrow words from English, Ojibwemowin does not and therefore must seek input of First Speakers to make sure that the language is correct...and in the Red Lake dialect.
But today would be different, Giniwgiizhig asked the elders to come up with a 20-year language revitalization plan. He said to set aside the cost or difficulty of the idea, anything goes, what would you do? He said that this would be valuable for communities and tribal councils down the road as we develop more and more language revitalization plans.
The Elders 20-Year Plan ideas for Language Revitalization included:
• "We want our language healthy above all!"
• Ojibwemowin in the tribal constitution is number one priority
• Translate tribal constitution into Ojibwe and record it
• 1% income tax (payroll deduction) from all tribal employees for language
• Make reading materials for kids: books, films in Ojibwemowin
• K-12 Learning standards based on Ojibwe culture and language all disciplines
• Document a student or two's language learning across time
• Record elders in the homes.
• Record Dialogue/trilogies of speakers talking to each other in all types of conversation, visiting, debating, and arguing.
• Repository for language, perhaps the Red Lake Archives
• Language radio station speaking 100% Ojibwe, a good learning tool
• Other Media: TV shows, TV station, Ojibwe Newsletter, Make films to put on TV, Do Ojibwe language voice-over in English films
• Ojibwe songs for kids and adults
• Act out stories heard such as boarding schools, hunting, etc., and record in Ojibwe
• Have reservation street and road signs and even tribal programs either translated to Ojibwemowin or given new Ojibwe names
• Grocery store isles and labels in Ojibwe, or a furniture store in Ojibwe
• Interpreters in Hospital to translate for Elders
• Use the language in the courts
• Immersion camps: Year round cultural language immersion camp free to learners with no English speaking allowed,
• Cultural language immersion camps: Hunting, fishing, ricing, gardening, maple sugaring activities for various age groups
• Weekend immersion programs
• An Ojibwe Language only housing community
• An Ojibwe house drop in center that is staffed by speakers, anyone can drop but speak no English
• Language tables and Language programs for whole families and mentors for whole family groups
• Need to speak the language in the home...and to kids...not just other elders. Parents of immersion school children should learn with them. Label things in the home, stove, bed, fridge in Ojibwe
• K-12 immersion school perhaps a Charter School to obtain state monies
• Ojibwe Immersion teacher training program in college and classroom
• Bring Ojibwe history into curriculum e.g. Pilgrim story from Native perspective
• Kids do skits in Ojibwe and record them
• Teach youth to be story tellers
The next committee meeting of the Ojibwe Language Advisory Committee will be held Monday, December 14, 2015, from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. at Red Lake Nation College cafeteria. All are welcome to attend.
The words and phrases translated by the committee are being transcribed and will be made available, in the near future, to any and all...including Ojibwemowin dictionaries....in order to document the Red Lake dialect.
Want to learn how to pronounce Ojibwemowin? Listen to Red Lake Spiritual/Cultural Advisor Eugene Stillday and others pronounce these and other words and phrases at the following U of M link for the "Ojibwe Peoples Dictionary." http://ojibwe.lib.umn.edu
Get Involved with Ojibwemowin and Cultural Revitalization in Your Community
The effort is part of the Head Start Immersion Classroom. Zac Mitteness is the lead teacher along with Marcus Tyler. Guiding elders, Frances Miller and Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird, join them. The school is located within the halls of the new Red Lake Nation College and meets on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday weekly from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The Ojibwe Language Revitalization Advisory Committee consists of First Speakers; Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird, Frances Miller, Anna Gibbs, Susan Johnson, Mary Lou Stillday, Eliza Johnson, Murphy Thomas, Eugene Stillday, Donald Iceman, Sr., Robert "Shoopon" Kingbird, Violet Patterson, Arnold Kingbird, Lee Whitefeather, Carol Barrett and John Barrett, with more and more getting involved each meeting.
The group has developed immersion school project partners, including a collaboration of skilled and fluent speaking community members. Partners include the Red Lake School District, Head Start, and Red Lake Nation College.
The team meets monthly on the second Monday often at Oshki-maajitaadaa (New Beginnings) in Redby, but on occasion meets at other venues including the Ponemah Round House. The Ojibwemowin Council of Elders invites any and all to get involved with Ojibwemowin Language and Culture Revitalization within the Red Lake Nation community! Get involved in this or one of the many other cultural projects in your community for a better Red Lake Nation.
The Red Lake immersion programs use the "double vowel" system as developed and presented in the Nichols/Nyholm dictionary. The double vowel system is used at Ojibwemowin immersion schools, public schools, and colleges across the country. It is the preferred spelling used in Ojibwemowin books.
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.