Grassroots movement unites tribal nations: Part 1

Working to increase the voice of indigenous people.

As a society, we place high value on the verbal communication that we use to interact with each other. Language continues to be vital piece of our social, cultural and spiritual identity. For the indigenous population of Michigan, the Odawa/Ottawa, Chippewa/Ojibway and Potawatomi, the Anishinawbemowin language has been and continues to be a vital part of cultural identity.

The Anishinawbewomin language is an oral languag,e which means there was never any official written documentation of this language. Michigan tribes are facing a critical time in the Anishinabek culture because fluent speakers have become more difficult to find in the United States. This lack of fluency in the Anishinabek has occurred as a result of forced assimilation into European culture through the stealing of land, the Boarding School Era, and the overall discouragement to identify as an American Indians. It is important to note that Michigan Tribal Nations share this issue with other Tribal nations across our country, as well as other indigenous population across the globe. However, with the increased awareness of the impending cultural cliff tribes will be facing with regards to Anishinawbewomin there are many grassroots and tribal government efforts taking place to ensure the language will be carried on for generations to come.

Many Michigan Tribal Nations offer language classes through their language or education departments. A few additional examples of language programs include Bay Mills Community College offers courses in Ojibwe Language Instruction , language classes coordinated by groups of fluent speakers such as Noongwa-e-Anishinaabemjig-People Who Speak Anishinaabemowin Today (Neyankenmaagejig Anishinaabemowin (About Us) | Noongwa e-Anishinaabemjig), and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Anishinaabemowin Language Lessons (Anishinaabemowin Language Lessons - Little River Band of Ottawa Indians).

When working in tribal communities, language and the use of language may be a vital piece to cultural identity. It is important to determine early on, when working with tribes, if there is a place to learn the language or a person(s) who could assist you in the translation of words to assist in tribal program development.

There are many more resources to explore if you are interested in learning more about Anishinawbemowin. Please stay tuned for the second part of this series, which will be titled: "Grassroots movement unites tribal nations: Part 2."

Please contact Emily Proctor, Tribal Extension Educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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