Life @ U of T

Indigenous Education Week: Reigniting Language

Picture of a fire Aaniin! Can you believe that it’s already the end of October? As the week draws to an end, so does First Nation House’s annual Indigenous Education Week. I look forward to it each year because there are always so many interesting events planned! This year, the focus was on language and the movement towards reigniting language in Indigenous communities. I did not have the opportunity to learn my language growing up, which unfortunately is not an uncommon experience for Indigenous folx across Turtle Island. Being that it is such an integral part of our identity – we feel its absence. I am doing the best that I can to learn my language, Anishinaabemowin, and I try to incorporate it into my everyday life even if it is in small ways. It is special to me and something that I hold close to my heart, I want to do my part in reigniting language in our communities. Our worldviews are embedded in language, and the way we speak connects us with one another—it asks that we think relationally. It meant so much to me when I first learned how to introduce myself in Anishinaabemowin, and I am so grateful to Jenny Blackbird at Ciimaan/Kahuwe’yá/Qajak for teaching us how to do so when I attended their Orange Shirt Day beading event. Indigenous languages matter, and it is important that we do our part in making sure that they aren’t lost. Indigenous culture is rooted in oral tradition and learning an Indigenous language is not so simple that you can just sign up for something like Rosetta Stone to pick it up. It was meant to be taught by way of oral tradition. It is not an easy task to learn Anishinaabemowin but it is an important one. I was fortunate to attend the Elders Gathering on Monday, which was supported by the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health. Our Elders – Jacqui Lavalley (Shawanaga First Nation), Grafton Antone (Oneida of the Thames First Nation), Ernie Sandy (Beausoleil First Nation), Clay Shirt (Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge), Eileen Antone (Oneida of the Thames First Nation), were all so wonderful to hear speak. This is an event that I look forward to in particular each year because it is so special to hear Elders speak and share their stories. Elders hold an important role in our communities, they are our knowledge holders. Together, we discussed topics from: decolonizing language, language as a tool for healing, and how to take action in the movement towards language revitalization. There is hope and Indigenous folx across Turtle Island are taking part in reigniting our languages. Our ancestors can hear us – there is power in our words. I will continue to do the best that I can to make Anishinaabemowin a part of my daily life and be sure that it is something that I will pass down to my children. This is my commitment. Chii-miigwetch!

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