Ojibwe Language and Culture Camp Held at Ponemah
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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ojibwe language and culture camp held at ponemah 2.jpgFor the second year in a row, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians hosted an Ojibwe Language and Culture Camp for youth. The camp was held on Aug. 5-7 at the Ponemah Round House.

The three-day Gabeshiwin (camp) hosted by Red Lake Chemical Health, Red Lake Economic Development and Planning, and the Boys and Girls Club featured eating traditional foods, lacrosse, games, plant gathering practices and identification, birch bark crafts, traditional Anishinaabe teachings and more. Gabeshiwin is a part of Red Lake Nation's Ojibwemowin Revitalization efforts.

Concerned that language and tradition will disappear as elders die, natives of Red Lake Nation – and across the country – are focused on language revitalization and related efforts to retain tribal culture. Much of indigenous culture depends on native language, as many concepts just cannot be translated to English.

The camp was held near Ponemah Point, the peninsula home to more than half of the remaining fluent Ojibwemowin speakers in the United States.

Sam Strong, Director of Red Lake Economic Development, and a major sponsor of Gabeshiwin provided some background. “Our language was basically stripped from us a generation or two ago. The children were forbidden to talk their native language.”

A living generation still remembers how U.S. government authorities swept onto reservations and carried Ojibwe children off to boarding schools to assimilate to the white culture. The ripple effects of that action are still being felt by tribes today.

“We feel if we can raise people’s self esteem their chance of using alcohol and drugs will be less,’’ said elder and fluent speaker Murphy Thomas. "Self esteem is all tied up with knowing who you are and having a sense of pride in your heritage, language and culture."

“The overall philosophy is to re-connect all people to nature and inevitably to themselves,’’ Spiritual Advisor Eugene Stillday, an elder and first speaker said. “We know that history is a living part of the present.’’

Ojibwemowin was heard and spoken throughout the three day Gabeshiwin by elders, teachers, and encouragingly… some youth.Fluent speaking elders taught cultural values for youth to remember, the Ojibwe creation story, and the importance of gratitude among the lessons.

Among other revered practices, youth learned the practice of making tobacco offerings to the Creator for providing waawaashkeshina (deer) and to the deer for giving up its life. “This is practiced with all living things taken from Mother Earth,” Frances Miller reminded all.

The elders formed relationships with the young people as they taught them Ojibwemowin everyday phrases such as the often-heard ambe (let's go), and gego (don't), along with being taught native names for plants and animals.

“The camp turned shy young men and women campers into more self-confident youth, and with that self-assurance comes better behavior in school and at home,” Murphy said.

The Ojibwemowin Revitalization Advisory Committee consists of; Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird, Frances Miller, Anna Gibbs, Susan Johnson, Mary Lou Stillday, Eliza Johnson, Murphy Thomas, Eugene Stillday, Donald Iceman Sr., Violet Patterson, Arnold Kingbird, Greeting Spears, Lee Whitefeather, Carol Barrett and John Barrett.

(Photo by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News)

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