U Of M Professors, Students Hope Living Dictionary Will Keep Ojibwe Alive

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ojibwe is a language that’s slowly disappearing.

But now, because of a new online talking dictionary, there’s renewed hope that it will be spoken for years to come.

Brenda Child is chairwoman of the Indian Studies Department at the University of Minnesota. She is Ojibwe, and grew up on the Red Lake Reservation. She remembers a relative sharing a story about the language.

“Her parents did not encourage her to speak Ojibwe, because of the school,” she said. “The school said at that time don’t teach your children Ojibwe. Speak English. This will be the best thing for them.”

Child said preserving the language is important for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike.

“We also think about the language as very imbedded in place names throughout Minnesota. It’s very important to our region,” she said.

To lose the language, Child said, would be like losing a piece of our history, because that’s where culture resides.

There are 200,000 Ojibwe people in the U.S. and Canada. However, only a few thousand speak Ojibwe. Child hopes the living dictionary will keep the language, and the culture, alive for future generations.

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