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

'Our hearts are heavy': COVID-19 deaths of tribal elders leave a void

Tragedy has come with a renewed urgency to preserve language and culture


April 13, 2021

Steve Premo (center) works with Ojibwe elder Carol Nickaboine, along with Madeline Treuer (left) and son Seth Premo (right) in the preservation of the Ojibwe language. In the process, the elders tell traditional stories in the context of their own lives, while the story is captured in both the Ojibwe language and in English. Courtesy of Red Circle Agency

Anton Treuer calls himself an Ojibwe language warrior. He's been working to preserve and share the language for two decades. He spends a lot of time learning from elders, and over the past year COVID-19 has claimed many.

"It's been hard. We've simply had a lot of deaths," said Treuer, whose work takes him to tribal communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario.

"And throughout those communities, the COVID deaths have been profound," he said. "We identified 25 fluent [Ojibwe] speakers in Mille Lacs, and about half a dozen of them died this year, most from COVID."


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