Native Language Revitalization

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.”

Presentation

Fact Sheet

State Policies and Reports

Language Education Programs

Advocacy Efforts

  • 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.

Media

  • 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.