Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keeping Ojibway language alive one person at a time.

Indigenous Languages are dying all over the world (as we speak). It is not just a situation that is damaging to Aboriginal people in Canada and the U.S. but to other Indigenous people around the world. Is there a chance to reverse the trend of language loss? Who knows? I just know that with new technologies and interest from young people, maybe Indigenous languages will survive.

I know when I was a kid my parents wanted it (the world) to be easier on us, so they spoke English to us growing up. We heard them speaking Ojibway to their peers but not to us. That is a shame.

Funny thing when you don't really speak to good in your language you will learn the inappropriate sayings first. Like many would say "ah keenag(k)" to each other. It refers to male organ, the penis. It would like saying "ah your prick". Used as a put down, an insult or in some cases that it's nothing.

I think religious pressures have skewed the meanings of our words as well. When we were kids, you would say something like "ah ki-too-pagun". Like "ah your vagina. When Pagun = does not even mean the vagina. Pagun is actually the Pipe. How it became perverse (not that the woman part is perverse, but how the word was used) is something that I can only speculate. I won't go into a Pipe Teaching, but if you know what the Pipe (bowl & stem) represents than maybe there is some link to why the word had become miss-used and bastardized in our community. Our community had/has a heavy heavy religious footprint there. We know that some of that influence has changed the meaning of some words, like Michimimatou. To mean the Devil. But come on really? The devil? We know that Devil's Lake in North Dakota is really Spirit Lake, but someone else thought it was the Devil, and we know who that is, don't we?

In any case there is increased pressure on indigenous languages today because of the language of trade. English being the big trade language (although some would argue that Mandarin is the biggest trade language; it does have the most speakers). I think with people like this young woman and many others like her around the Indigenous world, our languages might have a chance to survive.

Just had to add this recent video of Tim speaks Ojibwe. I could not run off sentences like that. Shame on me, but good on him. As you will see this young man is not Ojibway, nor does he have a Teacher. He is teaching himself.

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