Say It in Ojibwe: Camp Helps Keep the Language Alive

Say It in Ojibwe: Camp Helps Keep the Language Alive



You brought your own folding chair, your own dishware and your own camping gear, but if you could, you stashed your English language in the car trunk at the parking lot.

“Gidaa aabijitoomin Anishinaabemowin ji bimaadiziimagak Anishinaabe Izhitwaawin!” was the greeting. “We are here to keep the Ojibwe language and traditions alive!”

At the end of June for four days, organizers of the Kiwenz Ojibwe Language Camp hosted families and individuals to Ojibwe language in a fun setting along with teaching of traditional crafts and lots of activities.

The camp—and campground—is named for Mike “Kiwenz” Shabaiash, whose nickname was shortened from Akiwenzii, or Old Man.

About a half dozen fluent Ojibwe speakers were available to help direct programs and keep the conversations going. Mornings featured language-learning activities while cultural art projects were focused on in the afternoon.

Everyone was welcome, regardless of language skill, but during activities like the cribbage and Jenga games, directions came in Ojibwe from skilled language experts like Rick Gresczyk. He also did a nature walk identifying plants in Ojibwemowin, the Ojibwe language.

A talent show, regular canoe races, rice-poling canoe races and a mini pow wow with games like musical chairs and the potato dance, were all part of the activities.

This year some of the cultural arts sessions included fees to cover materials, but the variety was broad.

Jim Northrup, founder of the language camp along with his wife, Pat, and with Rick Gresczyk, presented sessions in how to make birchbark baskets. Other sessions featured Charlie “Tuna” Nahganub teaching how to carve cedar manoomin (wild rice) knockers; Frank Montano showing cedar flute making; Cord Timo on arrowhead making; Misko Bineshii on making adult moccasins; quillwork with Rocky Makes Room and Beadwork with Theresa Morrison.

Arne Vainio, a doctor at Fond du Lac, again performed his Mad Science experiments, encouraging children to get interested in science.

Find out more about the Kiwenz Ojibwe Language Camp by visiting the website.

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