Minnesota is close to losing its indigenous languages—Dakota and Ojibwe. This is important work to save native cultures, since language and culture are inseparable. One of the ways that religious communities and organizations can support healing in Native communities is by supporting this important work of language revitalization. One of the big challenges has been finding fluent speakers to teach the children.
A 2011 report from the Minnesota Bureau of Indian Affairs on the state of Dakota and Ojibwe languages opens with these lines:
“Minnesota’s most enduring languages are in danger of disappearing. Without timely intervention, the use of Dakota and Ojibwe languages – like Indigenous languages throughout the globe — will decline to a point beyond recovery. These languages embody irreplaceable worldviews. They express, reflect, and maintain communal connections and ways of understanding the world. Deeper than the disuse of vocabulary or grammar, the loss of an Indigenous language is destruction of a complex system for ordering the relationships among people and the natural world, for solving social problems, and connecting people to something beyond themselves.”
- Dakota Ojibwe Language Revitalization Alliance discussed their work at a February 9, 2015 presentation to Healing Minnesota Stories. A summary of the talk is available, as is an edited video of the presentation.
State Policies and Reports
- Dakota and Ojibwe Language Revitalization In Minnesota, a Report to the Legislature from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2011
- Strategic Plan for Dakota and Ojibwe Language Revitalization in Minnesota, Report to the Legislature from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2013
Language Education Programs
- Wicoie Nandagikendan: A Dakota and Ojibwe early childhood language immersion program which, “builds on the integral connections between culture, literacy, and educational attainment.”
- Enweyang Ojibwe Language Nest, Duluth: a preschool program of the UMD campus, providing a 100 percent Ojibwe envirnonment for young learners.
- Bdote Learning Center: A K-4 public charter school offering Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion.
- American Indian Magnet School, St. Paul: A districtwide PreK-8 school rooted in American Indian history, culture, art, tradition and values, including instruction in Dakota, Lakota or Ojibwe.
- Anishinabe Academy, Minneapolis: a Pre-K-8 magnet school focusing on high academic achievement through Native American culture and language.
- Minneapolis Public School: Indigenous Language Resources: A useful site with links to Dakota and Ojibwe dictionaries, grammer lessons, and flash cards.
- U of M Dakota and Ojibwe Language Programs, Department of American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota
- U of M Dakota Lanugage Program Facebook Page: Committed to developing a cadre of Dakota language learners, speakers, and teachers
- Bemidji State University Ojibwe Language Program: Home to the first colegiate Ojibwe language program in the country.
- Dakota Wicohan: An organization committed: “to revitalize Dakota as a living language, and through it, transmit Dakota lifeways to future generations.”
- Grotto Foundation Native Language Revitalization Initiative: The Foundation has directed approximately 37 percent of its grant support to Native American endeavors, including indigenous language presevation.
- First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language (KTCA, 2010): A language is lost every fourteen days. One of those endangered tongues is Minnesota’s own Ojibwe language. Now a new generation of Ojibwe scholars and educators are racing against time to save the language. Working with the remaining fluent-speaking Ojibwe elders, they hope to pass the language on to the next generation.
- Preserving Minnesota’s Native Languages (MPR, Oct. 16, 2014): Interview with Anton Treuer, Executive director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University, and Mary Hermes, Lead researcher for the Ojibwe Conversational Archives project.