'Decolonise and re-indigenise': The Ojibwe language warrior
December 20, 2019 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Advocating for indigenous language revitalization has offered [Anton Treuer] healing and empowerment. "Language can disrupt the glue for colonial thinking which has been fundamentally dehumanizing to indigenous people," he explains. "Although we can't stop the bludgeon of forced assimilation, we can decolonize and re-indigenise everything we do, recognizing that in our worldview, spiritual, physical and mental health are intertwined. This is where real healing will come from; the language is a powerful tool in this work." posted by stoneweaver (8 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thank you for posting this.

My brother-in-law is a descendent of an Ojibwe band that neighbors Treuer’s in northern Minnesota. Though he’s always had a strong connection to his extended family on the reservation, the fact that he grew up in the Twin Cities suburbs has meant that his knowledge of Ojibwe language and culture isn’t as good as he’d like it to be, and for complicated reasons he hasn’t felt comfortable passing that heritage along to his daughter until recently. Now that my niece has reached an age where she’s showing a strong interest in her family’s background, the two of them have been working on this together, and Treuer’s writings have been a big part of that. In addition to the titles listed in the FPP, they’ve also found the Ojibwe Vocabulary Project Aaniin Ekidong (co-edited by Treuer) to be an invaluable resource.
posted by theory at 5:04 PM on December 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


I married into the extended Treuer family, but my spouse is not Ojibwe because blended families are complicated. Folks should also check out Anton's brother David Treuer's books for both fiction and non-fiction that deals with Ojibwe and Native identities.

(And for something completely different, here are their father Robert Treuer's writings on his experience escaping the Holocaust--like I said, blended families are complicated).
posted by hydropsyche at 5:20 AM on December 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


language preservation and revitalization are among the very few things i can bring myself to care about anymore. what a great post, thank you.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:46 AM on December 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


Footnote because it's in this weekend's Montreal news: Reawakening the dormant Wendat language. The Wendat are also known by the names Wyandot and Huron and their language has not actively been spoken for 150 years, but an effort is being made to teach the revived language at a school in Wendake, Quebec.
posted by zadcat at 3:10 PM on December 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


A friend mentioned that his family attended Ojibwe language camp last year and really enjoyed it.
posted by Friendly Craft Person at 4:36 PM on December 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Currently reading through this very good profile of Treuer and appreciating so much of it, such as the following:
"I found ambition, pursued a formal education after high school and beyond but I knew I was just buying time and building credentials. I was subversive, contrarian, driven, and ready to do something big and bold. I wanted to turn the whole education system of torture on its head. I just needed to find a way."
I'm far less ambitious than Treuer, but I've also felt similarly about the need to obtain and build credentials in order to interact with the systems of power in the U.S. as a POC. I recognized early on the weight of certain names and professions being valued above others (both as bludgeon and armor), and think frequently about the utility of having such credentials to signify, in a conditional kind of shorthand, my own value as a fellow human being.

The ability to build credentials conferred and accepted by the existing majority, as a means of interacting with the systems of power put into place by that majority, is a strategy of living as a minority in the U.S. that I relate to a lot. I'm glad to see Treuer express this motivation and thought process so candidly.

Now to continue reading the article and learn more about how he leverages his cred and education for not just himself, but also his community :D
posted by rather be jorting at 3:53 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


You know how sometimes you're reading something and have to pause for a sec because the passage you've just read is far too real:
He focused on creating a life as a politician or lawyer.

But he soon found out that colonial ways of thinking reached far beyond Bemidji; there was no escape from them.

"I'd be around educated people and they were just the dumbest smart people I ever met. The racist stuff started all over again. And then I just wanted to get home," he recalls.
Reminds me of my own prestigious alma mater. Surrounded by educated people, and yet...!
posted by rather be jorting at 4:10 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Having now finished reading the article, I'm especially struck by the sections regarding:

- Community leadership: Treuer's reluctance to set out to become a leader and his continual de-centering of himself as an individual in the leadership role, which is likely a significant factor in his effectiveness as a thoughtful and considerate leader, who works to figure out how to put into place the systems that make it possible for subsequent leaders to also succeed without him specifically:
"I didn't want to be the leader of anything; even now as leader, my goal is to be replaceable many times over. My hope is that the ceremony can live and thrive and be available to Ojibwe people for generations past the time when my name is forgotten. That's why we have so many Oshkaabewis in the lodge; if something were to happen to me today, I'm confident that the ceremony would continue."
- Language preservation in its full context: The emphasis on having that person-to-person living connection with others to pass down cultural memories and practices, for starters. I was also struck by the distinction that Treuer emphasizes between how you could, in a way, capture a small portion of the Ojibwe language via recordings or translation into English, vs. how much additional context exists in the way that language and oral history is spoken and the circumstances of that speaking, and the spirituality inherent in the methods of communicating that cannot be replicated in simple transcription or translation alone. It's cool that he found a balance between respecting the significance of not divulging too much while also describing enough to provide insight and illumination. For example, addressing how the focus on being physically present during lodge ceremonies emphasizes that person-to-person community connection in a way that also meets the elders and past generations on their own terms, maintaining and continuing practices established long before Columbus:
"Rather than watching the ceremony on YouTube or learning songs online, people have to engage with elders and the lodge on its terms as determined by our ancestors," Treuer explains.
- The significance of protecting traditions and rituals from exploitation and distortion, and educating oneself on one's own origins: The last few paragraphs of the article, especially. :)
posted by rather be jorting at 5:08 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


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