Ojibwe named official language of Fond du Lac BandOjibwe has been named the official language of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The Band’s Reservation Business Committee — its governing body — unanimously approved the resolution last month.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune , Pine Journal
Ojibwe has been named the official language of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Band’s Reservation Business Committee — its governing body — unanimously approved the resolution last month.
The board wanted “to make sure we are stating the importance of language preservation within our community and encouragement of its use,” said Chairwoman Karen Diver, “and for people to learn it.”
The language was nearly lost after federal boarding schools aimed at assimilating American Indians forbade the use of anything but English.
Language revitalization efforts on the Fond du Lac Reservation have grown
immensely in recent years. A weekly Ojibwe session at the tribal center has been taught for more than a decade, and an Ojibwe immersion camp in Sawyer will be held for the third time this summer. The language is taught at the reservation’s Ojibwe School for students in grades pre-K-12. There is also an effort to put signs and labels in Ojibwe in public places to help people have more identifiers, Diver said.
The resolution, which says the Ojibwe language is in danger of disappearing, doesn’t force members to learn it.
“It’s more about the promotion and enhancement of all of our efforts to learn the language than a replacement for English,” Diver said, noting official contracts still will be written in English.
Both White Earth and Red Lake nations approved Ojibwe as their official
languages last year.
Jim Northup is an author and member of the Fond du Lac Band and one of three people who founded the immersion camp in Sawyer. He also is part of a University of Minnesota and Minnesota Historical Society effort to create an online Ojibwe dictionary. The printed dictionary holds 7,000 words, Northrup said, but the online version will have 32,000.
Hardly anyone on the Fond du Lac Reservation is fluent in Ojibwe, he said, but many are eager to learn what they can. He still considers himself a student despite years of study. Calling Ojibwe the official language is long overdue, he said.
“It’s a slap in the face to assimilation,” said Northrup, who spent four years at a boarding school in southern Minnesota beginning in 1947. “It’s important to recognize that this was the language used here for hundreds and hundreds of years, even after the white people came.”