"Ojibwe language is taught at two Duluth schools. Recently, Gayle Daniel, who is the language teacher, invited me to visit her students at Grant and Central. They greeted me in Ojibwemowin, and treated me, their guest, with proper traditional etiquette, listening so sweetly as I told to them my favorite wintertime Nanaboozhoo story. What good changes there have been over the years: I could not have imagined such a thing when I was a girl in school.
I have been involved in Indian education programs for more than 30 years, and have seen educational trends, theories and methods come and go. In Indian country, we continue to adapt and survive. If there is one constant for us, it is that we want our children to do well in school, and to always be proud of who they are. We want our children to know our history and culture; we are hopeful that they will have a knowledge of our language.
My oldest grandchild is nearly 14. When he was a preschooler, we were visiting at my mother and father’s house with one of my uncles, an elderly man whose formal schooling had been at boarding school. My grandson was playing on the floor in back of uncle Bob’s chair, humming and singing to himself.
Uncle Bob asked, “Do you hear that? What’s that he is singing? What are those words?”
With some coaxing, Max came out from back of the chair and sang, bashfully, “Boozhoo, everybody, and wave at a Niijii!” — part of a song he had learned at Fond du Lac Head Start.
Bob nodded his head. He laughed, softly, with pleasure: “You couldn’t do that when we went to school, couldn’t talk Indian; it wasn’t allowed. These days they teach it right there, right in school.”
Uncle Bob held out his large hand toward Max, who placed his own small hand inside.
“Keep it up; you’re doing good,” Bob said.
My grandson and my uncle shook hands.
Although we were inside the house, I felt the warmth of the sun shining on us all."
Get the Story:
Linda Grover: Learning to speak Ojibwe
(The Duluth Budgeteer News 3/21)