revitalizing our language

Clifford - EJ, Michigan
Entered on April 16, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: legacy

Ahnee kina wayaa! (Hello Everyone!) I am a Tribal member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. I had planned on writing an essay on preserving our language because I believe in keeping our language alive. I spoke with a council member on preserving the Odawa language. He said, “I do not believe in preserving the language. That is like putting it on a shelf and saving it. I believe we should revitalize the language. We need to use the language whenever we are able to.” I said, “Yes, I agree I understand that revitalizing is what is needed to keep the language alive.”

I recalled when I was young my grandmother would ask me to wash pickles. Then I would watch her can them in jars with salt and vinegar. They would then be placed on a shelf in the root cellar. She would ask me to go get a jar off the shelf once in a while to be used. I believe that the language should be used at every opportunity not just occasionally, like Grandmother’s pickles. Our tribal language is very important from the things we do to the way we live our lives. We tell stories about this to carry on from generation to generation. As we grow older we pass on to our young the things we go through, the things we do. The way we live our lives is captured in our language. I believe this is very important to pass down to our next generation.

Anishinaabemowin (Native American language) is vital. If our language is lost then our culture will be gone and our identity will be lost with it. Nandagikendan (We seek to learn) more about our culture and identity at every given chance. When we learn something that we want to convey to others we do that through our language. I started college two years ago and the first class I signed up for was anishinaabemowin, our tribal language. The language was not spoken to me as I was growing up. I started as a new learner. Our instructor pointed out that we would have to create new words and phrases for modern objects and concepts, such as the computer. Gitchi-kendan mkakoons ( big thinking – little box) is how we say computer.

It’s important to continue to revitalize our language to show the way we believe and feel about our lives. Gayaabe Anishinaabemoin Maadziimgat (Our language is still alive.)

Naadimoowaadaanig eshkingjig wii-anishinaabemowaad. (Let us help the youth regain the language.) Miigwetch ( Thank-you) for taking the time to read my essay.