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Enkiitmajig Wii-Aabiziitoong Anishinaabemowin comes together to grow Anishinaabemowin

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The Enkiitmajig Wii-Aabiziitoong Anishinaabemowin (EWA), the Anishinaabemowin Revitalization Committee met on November 9 at the Anishinabek Nation Head Office in Nipissing First Nation.

By Kirk Titmuss

NIPISSING FIRST NATION – Gii-skigaade shkode. The fire has been lit.

The fire to revitalize and learn the traditional language of Anishinaabemowin has been lit—that’s how members of the Enkiitmajig Wii-Aabiziitoong Anishinaabemowin (EWA), the Anishinaabemowin Revitalization Committee, viewed the outcome of their day-long conference on November 9, which included ceremony, sharing Anishinaabemowin, and going over the group’s strategic planning.

Anishinabek Nation Anishinaabemowin Manager Ali Darnay says that the event helped committee members connect on many levels.

“I think it was really amazing to spend time together, and to build those relationships and to listen to Anishinaabemowin.”

The group included several fluent Anishinaabemowin speakers from across the Anishinabek Nation, including Anishinaabemowin Commissioner Barbara Nolan, language teacher Isadore Toulouse, and Anishinabek Head Getzit Richard Assinewai. All speakers shared their knowledge and working experiences, interspersing their discussion with traditional language.

Darnay also saw the day as an important way to generate ideas for how Anishinaabemowin can be made part of everyday life in the Anishinabek Nation.

“I think we did a lot of great sharing today of all the initiatives and activities that are taking place across the Anishinabek Akiing. For us here at the Anishinabek Nation, it really gives us a clear path forward with our strategic plan and developing some tools and resources to support Anishinaabemowin in our communities.”

One of the key takeaways from the event was the realization that including traditional language in traditional and everyday activities makes learning Anishinaabemowin more natural and effective.

“Ceremony is key to advancing our collective efforts. [We] really need to take that opportunity to gather together, to engage in an Anishinaabe Aadziwin (way of life), Anishinaabe Nendamowin (way of thinking), Anishinaabemowin (speaking), and set our work in that way with that intent,” stated Darnay.

One of the main issues discussed was the growing shortage of fluent Anishinaabemowin speakers. Elders make up most of that demographic; however, with their declining numbers, fewer experienced speakers remain to pass the language on to the next generation.

Over the last 20 years, there has been a 60 per cent drop in Anishinaabemowin speakers as outlined in the 2018 Anishinabek Nation Socio-Demographic Profile by Prologica Research Inc., based on data from the 2016 Census of Canada.

Darnay says she will be looking to update those figures, working in tandem with B’Maakonigan, the central government body for the First Nations that have signed onto the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement Act; Koganaawsawin, the central coordinating body of the Anishinabek Child, Youth, and Family Well-Being System; the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body (KEB), the central administrative structure for the Anishinabek Education System; and the Anishinaabemowin Department of the Anishinabek Nation as part of the EWA’s Strategic Plan.

She says it’s important to engage with the language speakers who are still numerous in some areas and get them involved in helping preserve the language.

“It’s about opportunities to create and support speakers, First Language speakers, fluent speakers. I think that’s really where our work needs to be focused on. We are fortunate, although there are challenges, we are fortunate there are lots of fluent speakers in some communities and there are opportunities for us to work more closely with those speakers and to create opportunities for new speakers and for First Language speakers.”

EWA members also discussed ways to better integrate Anishinaabemowin into daily practices including continuing to provide an Anishinaabemowin phrase or word of the day for Anishinabek Nation social media channels and developing language content for the Anishinabek News online.

Head Getzit Richard Assinewai addressed the gathering in Anishinaabemowin, speaking at length about his life experiences as a young Anishinaabe nini (man). He vowed to assist the committee’s goal of revitalizing the traditional language in any way he could.

“Our language is very, very important. It’s been too still. It needs to be revived someway, somehow. It’s what we use, Anishinaabemowin.”

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Rice will serve as a mentor for program featuring budding Indigenous writers

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