Michigan Ojibwe Language Teachers & Students Walk Their Talk!
By Brita Brookes
Well it's been a busy past few weeks for the Anishinaabemowin Students and Community in Michigan who are planning and participating in Native American Heritage Month activities.
Both the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan Universities conducted Native American Month workshops, panels and events recently.
Last week at the University of Michigan, "Wiping the Tears of Seven Generations" a Documentary about the Bigfoot Memorial Ride was shown to students and community. This movie was followed up with the annual Fall Feast where all students, community and faculty bring traditional foods and have dinner.
Among the guests at the Ann Arbor Fall Feast that was held at Trotter House, was visiting lecturers Ada Deer and David Cornsilk. The following Monday at the University of Michigan, there was an Indian Activist, Law and Tribal Government symposium panel which included Menominee Nation activist and professor Ada Deer, Cherokee Nation activist David Cornsilk and Michigan State Law School Professor and Tribal Law expert Matthew Fletcher.
Wrapping up a busy week of culture and language, the University of Michigan Language students hosted an event at the University Of Michigan Exhibit Museum Of Natural History. Students and Language professors Howard Kimewon and Margaret Noori hosted "The Three Fires of Michigan: Natural History from a Native American Perspective" exhibition which occurred on every floor of the four story museum.
Hundreds of area elementary school kids visited the museum to learn and participate in teachings about the Native American perspective on Natural History. The excited school children learned traditional dancing, songs, heard stories, held regalia items carefully, constructed turtles, made birch bark scrolls, handled copper and salt minerals, heard about the four directions, names for the clans, how Indians were here first and learned the story of the Creation of Turtle Island from Ojibwe language student Mike Zimmerman.
In the large meeting room, children sat on the floor around Kimewon and quietly listened to his stories about birch bark canoes and hunting. This traditional storytelling was done in both the Ojibwe language and English. Many of the ongoing themes that the children related easily to were that of recycling, protecting and respecting each other and nature.
By the end of the day, one could hear the children in the hallways saying loudly and proudly "Migwetch Howard!" and "Migwetch Meg" after learning the Ojibwe word for "Thank-you." Good work University of Michigan! Go Blue! Eastern Michigan University also joined in the celebrations and held its own panel entitled "Sharing Our Lifeways" which included three traditional fluent Ojibwe language speakers and one language and spiritual revitalization advocate.
The focus of the panel was to highlight the preservation of the traditional language and teachings for the good of all of society. Kimewon, who participated in the panel spoke of his life growing up on the Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve and how he spoke the language growing up and how he speaks to and teaches the students at both Eastern Michigan and University of Michigan now. All panelists agreed that one of the key ways to keep the language going was to teach the new mothers the language so they can then teach their children.
Eastern Michigan also held its annual Fall Feast at the campus Student Center, where students, community and faculty enjoyed the drums by "Blue Lake Singers" and had one spontaneous Two-Step dance break out in the Dining Room to the amusement of all participating.
Eastern Michigan will be ending its festivities for Native American Heritage Month with a lecture by writer Shirley Cheechoo (Cree). Shirley Cheechoo began directing films in 1998, after working as an actor and playwright of notable plays such as "Path with No Moccasins" (1991).
Cheechoo teaches drama workshops to Native youth across Ontario, and has founded a touring youth drama company, the Debahjehmujig Theatre Group, which often performs in the Ojibwe language. She has won first prize awards for her works at numerous film festivals including Montreal's First Peoples Festival, the Santa Fe Film Festival, and the American Indian Film Festival of San Francisco.
-- Brita V. Brookes"Creative Ideas At Work"
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