Pictured, from left, are Frank Dickenson, a fluent Ojibwemowin speaker; Chairman Floyd Jourdain; Dean Branchaud, of Red Lake Roads; and Melvin Jones, another fluent speaker.

Native American Language Revitalization on Red Lake Agenda

Michael Meuers
9/21/11

Red Lake Ojibwe Nation Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. offered tobacco to 11 persons gathered at the Little Rock Roundhouse on September 6 for the purpose of exploring Ojibwe language revitalization at Red Lake. Melvin Jones offered a prayer.

Red Lake Frances Miller

The meeting was attended by fluent speakers, elders and others interested in aspects of Ojibwemowin revitalization.

“Ojibwe is now the official language of Red Lake,” said Jourdain, “and that’s not just a public relations thing, we want to make it so. Many things can be done, including encouraging more language and culture in our schools.”

Many ideas were discussed. Fluent speaking elders will be key, and will be encouraged to share their knowledge, give advice, and participate in this important initiative. After much discussion, it was decided that the group would begin with Ojibwemowin signage on the reservation in two areas, buildings and street signs.

Jourdain complimented the City of Bemidji on their use of Ojibwe signage in places of business.

Red Lake Economic Development and planning director Sam Strong will organize community meetings to discuss street sign changes with Red Lake members. The main roads would receive Ojibwe names first.

The group further decided to put together a strategy for either renaming tribal buildings or translating the existing names into Ojibwemowin, for example New Beginnings would be translated to Oshki-maajiitaawinan.

Much discussion centered around the need for consistency in the spelling of Ojibwe. All concurred that Red Lake should encourage the use the “double vowel” system. The double vowel system is used at Ojibwemowin immersion schools in Minnesota, and is the preferred spelling used in books being written in Ojibwe, and bilingual publications.

The Nichols/Nyholm Dictionary is the book of reference for the double vowel system.?The committee will spend some time at the Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion School at the Bug School near Bena sometime in October.

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