In Focus: New Books Published Entirely in Ojibwe
At the Mille Lacs Indian Museum on Wednesday, a celebration was taking place.
“Today’s a really exciting day. We are celebrating the publication of five new Ojibwe language books that were produced through the Aanjibimaadizing [Changing Lives] program here in Mille Lacs and published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press,” said Anton Treuer, Bemidji State University Ojibwe Professor.
A group of elders and first speakers of the Ojibwe language, teachers, and historians worked together to create books about the history of Ojibwe and keep the language alive.
“Our language is deeply important to us. It’s at the center of our identity. It’s the language we use to officiate ceremonies,” added Treuer.
Ojibwe is an endangered language. To historians of the language and elders who grew up speaking it, it’s no secret as to what happened.
“For the better part of 100 years, the United States government was taking Native kids away from their families, sending them to residential boarding schools where they were physically beaten if they spoke the only language that they knew,” said Treuer.
When trying to find fluent speakers on the Mille Lacs Reservation, Treuer says they could only find 25 people fluent enough to write about the language. With that in mind, Mille Lacs made a commitment to help resurrect the language by developing Rosetta Stone and these published works.
“One of the reasons why the book launch and the book celebration is a big deal, and the books in general, is because we’re making monolingual Ojibwe language resources and we are making the most of the time we have with Native fluent speakers to create resources that we can put right into the classroom,” said Baabiitaw Boyd, Aanjibimaadizing Project Transcriber.
“So they can they can teach people the language for hundreds of years to come,” said Treuer.
Although Treuer expresses that the ability to revitalize the language throughout the country may seem small, in Mille Lacs, it’s a different story.
“One of the things that’s exciting and hopeful now is that there are genuine resources and a lot of people who are really committed to righting historical injustices and helping set our language up so that it can thrive in the future,” said Treuer.
Anyone interested in purchasing a book can do so at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum, on Amazon, or any place books are sold.