Writer commends students of Anishinaabemowin

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was sent to us by Theresa Hoy, Wikwemikong Board of Education Anishinaabemowin Curriculum Department manager, and reprinted here at Ms. Hoy’s request in light of the recent Anishinaabemowin public speaking contest held in Wikwemikong.

Dear Theresa:

In this day and age that we live in, complex issues of personal and cultural identity continue to face our people, defying easy answers and familiar stereotypes. Our people continue to wrestle with long standing land claims, loss of language, despair, sovereignty and rights to self-government. Such items emerge in various circulars, native and non-native. But there is far more to this story than anybody can write.

The late Chief Ronald Wakegijig once said that it is only through the eyes of our people that proper history can be told. To lay blame for these problems is to be held captive. I admired this man as he graced the tables of many boardrooms, dealing with these issues. Our young children as they are involved with language immersion are asking big questions. Why must we fight for lands that are rightfully ours? It’s a well-known fact that we have been lied to. What do we do about these? Such are the questions of the young people in the language.

My recent dealings with various language classes have brought much hope. The eloquence of the Native tongue is here to stay albeit slowly but surely.

Not only can the students speak, but they can read and write the language. Foremost in their deliberations is the reverence for the harmony of the Creators work. They recognize that this language was given to them, not just by anybody, but the Creator. They talked about the web of life that is relationships linking every human to every other thing in the natural world, plant of animal, rock or river, invisible spirit or thunderstorm. They talked about a world pervaded by traditions handed down in daily rituals and seasonal celebrations. They have a wealth of stories told and retold by the old to the young, stories answering essential questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where have we travelled? How must we live?

For the brief moments I was in awe of what’s happening. I laud the students who are involved, the schools, teachers and other groups. As an elder sitting in on such an important occasion, I can only add further…to double our efforts on all fronts, especially the home front. Keep up the good work, Theresa, you and your fellow teachers.

Elder Isaac Pitawanakwat