Language Reclamation, Not Just Preservation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jul 2 17:47:47 UTC 2008



July 1, 2008

*Language Reclamation, Not Just Preservation*
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer

What inspires a person to learn the language of his ancestors, even though
he didn't grow up speaking that language himself? And what inspires him to
join a school where he can teach that language to children? What do those
children think about the language? And what affect can the effort have on an
entire community?

These were a few of the questions I had for Keller Paap, a teacher in an
Ojibwe immersion school program called
Waadookodaading<>(We Help
Each Other) on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in north-central
Wisconsin. I got in touch with Paap while I was working on our recent
program Sustaining Language, Sustaining
You can hear his story in the embedded audio above. He begins by introducing
himself in Ojibwe.

What I gleaned from talking to Paap was that this language revitalization
effort is doing more than merely preserving the language. It's literally
keeping the language alive so that it can continue to grow and change, with
new words and new ways of saying things. I love the way he describes his
students' relationship to the language. They aren't dwelling on the
long-standing U.S. policy of forcibly educating Native Americans in English.
They aren't learing Ojibwe as a political act or even as a cultural act.
They're just living in it, and making it their own.

This audio piece was produced with help from Trent Gilliss and Mitch Hanley.
Music by Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band. Keller Paap took the photo of
the Ojibwe road sign, which translates as "The Dam."

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