I’m thrilled to share with you that I am the 2017 recipient of the Chalmers Arts Fellowship Award by the Ontario Arts Council. This fellowship will experiment with innovative poetic techniques while increasing my current anishnaabe/odawa dialect language skills, and the transfer of traditional memory keeping methods.
This year long project starts in a couple days on March 1 till next February 2018. I am honoured to be chosen by a jury comprised of Artists in Ontario. Along with 32 other Ontario artists who also received this award, I am filled with gratitude for this opportunity to focus on learning anishnaabemowin while experimenting with innovative techniques to approach bilingual poetry. I will also be studying other anishnaabe writers who write in the language like Margaret Noodin. If you’ve been reading my posts and following my blog, you’ll know that I often write using anishnaabemowin. It’s a celebration of language and also a reclaiming of ancestral understanding based in the language of the anishnaabeg.
I am inspired to increase fluency by playing with language and sounds. I love anishnaabemowin. The sound is rich with so many syllables. The words bounce around in your mouth and nasal cavity, and tickle the tongue. I will also be writing about the process of learning, reclaiming, and being fearless when speaking anishnaabemowin.
Why be fearless?
There is the colonial past that proceeded to attack and terrorize my anishnaabeg ancestors. The Canadian government and the Church created these Residential Schools that captured young anishnaabeg children and forcibly assimilated them into the European education and language. To this day there are Elders who can’t speak the language because of the corporal punishment they received for speaking their language. To this day there are people of all ages who have a hard time speaking the words of their ancestors because of the historical shame they carry deep inside their bones.
Yet, on this day there are so many more of us who are relearning the language. We are fearless. We are celebrating our language and we are reviving it and reclaiming it. It is a celebration. It is healing our traumatic past so that we can move forward. And there are more survivors of Residential School who are on their path of healing and remembering the language they spoke before being taken away. Today, I read a story by Gordon Shawanda from Wikwemikong who shared his experiences. It was healing to read it because he returned back to his anishnaabe ways and revived his knowledge of anishnaabemowin. It is truly inspiring to read his story. It’s these stories that will keep me moving forward.
I invite you to travel on this journey with me.
Miigwech for reading. Keep celebrating your language. Keep moving forward. Keep being who you are because you are awesome!