Ojibwe Language and Culture Camp Held at Ponemah


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


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.’’


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.


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)