Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

January Update: Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee

Elders Record Conversational Stories


Elders told stories from their childhood

"We are fulfilling a prophesy! One of the old prophesies said young people will be born with old spirits. Young people will be going to the drum and singing the old songs. Young people will go to the elders and start asking, asking for directions. And this is what these young people are doing. I'm very proud of them." ~Gichi-Ma'iingan (Larry Stillday) Obaashiing Miikana (The Road to Ponemah)

A mixture of elders/first speakers, teachers, and staff for Red Lake's Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee met at Oshki-maajitaadaa (New Beginnings) in Redby on Tuesday, January 19, 2016. They meet from 3:30 until about 6:00 p.m.

The Ojibwemowin Council were assembled for their monthly gathering in a classroom where participants took seats at a four-sided table-group, including again, several residents of Jourdain/Perpich Nursing Home. The group meets 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, Zac Mitteness Head Start Immersion Classroom lead teacher, opened the meeting with announcements and introductions.

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, as last month, the agenda was a bit different with the recording the elders in conversation. This month our First Speakers told stories from childhood, breaking into two groups so more stories be told and recorded. Because language is so closely related to culture, stories of ceremonies and the old ways must be documented in order to further Ojibwe language and cultural revitalization.

Storytellers told anecdotes about their childhood daily routines mostly in Ojibwemowin though often tag teaming with English. Tales about eating, clothes, getting ready for school and other remembrances.

There were tales about fishing, snaring, and cooking outside. Rabbit stew was a staple. They told stories about pets and wooden sleds and trips to Bemidji. "Kids today don't realize how good they have it. It's not like when we were young, but we made it," one elder said.

The difficulties of winter, water and heat were told. Many had to fetch water from outside pumps and heated with wood that needed to be gathered, cut and split. One elder told a story about having to "drag water home as we didn't live near the lake," she said. Living near the lake or not, all had to go chop ice from the lake just for a drink.

Another told of logging at the Northwest Angle, working with white folks. The bread was terrible so he told his fellow loggers he would make them some bread to remember and preceded to make outside-bread much to the amazement of the other loggers "this I gotta see," they said.

Another elder told about living on an island in the summer. She also had a story about outside-bread. When she was a girl learning to cook outside-bread, her dad was demonstrating how to flip the bread in the heavy cast iron pan. "The first time I tried the flip, I flipped out right out of the pan and over my head. My dad quickly tried to catch it but dropped it because it was too hot," she said laughing.

The Elders 20-Year Plan for Language and Cultural Revitalization includes but is not limited to:

• Ojibwemowin in the tribal constitution is number one priority

• 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

• Ojibwe songs for kids and adults

• Act out stories heard such as boarding schools, hunting, etc., and record in Ojibwe

• Immersion camps: Year round cultural language immersion camp free to learners with no English speaking allowed,

• Cultural language immersion camps: Hunting, fishing, snaring, ricing, gardening, maple sugaring activities for various age groups

• Weekend immersion programs

• Bring Ojibwe history into curriculum

• Teach youth to be story tellers

About 5:40 everyone was then invited to eat. A fine meal of natural foods was served.

The next committee meeting of the Ojibwe Language Advisory Committee will be held Monday, February 8, 2016, from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. place to be announced. All are welcome to attend.

The words and phrases and stories 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."


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.

Another told of logging at the Northwest Angle

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.


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