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Niibin 2017 Ojibwe Immersion Academy, June 11 – June 24, 2017, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Cloquet, Minnesota 

Ojibwemotaadidaa Omaa Gidakiiminaang and Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College are pleased to announce an opportunity that previous participants have called “the chance of a lifetime.” This summer, the seventh annual Ojibwe Immersion Academy will be held at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, Minnesota. The academy will offer a complete immersion experience in Ojibwe language and culture for two weeks from June 11 – June 24, 2017. (Note: this year the Academy has been shortened to two weeks instead of the previous three weeks.) Taught by master speakers and university faculty, the academy enrolls upper-level high school and college students, immersion teachers, language instructors at all levels, and other Ojibwe learners who seek to improve their proficiency and pass the language on to others. The goal of the academy is to ensure the longevity of the Ojibwe language by increasing the quality and quantity of proficient speakers in Minnesota and surrounding states. Eligibility. Language background. We welcome anyone who is adequately prepared for language immersion. However, applicants should recognize that speaking Ojibwe for two weeks without using English is very difficult and can be disorienting. Individuals considering application should possess a minimum language background equivalent to two years of study of Ojibwemowin as shown by course credits, a language résumé, or two teacher or first speaker recommendations. They should have intermediate facility in hearing and speaking Ojibwe as demonstrated by a video-sound clip submitted with their application. Successful applications will make apparent the applicant’s past and present determination to learn Ojibwemowin and commitment to continue to advance his or her proficiency in the language following the academy. Even if an applicant meets the above expectations, he or she may not be able to participate because the number of spaces is limited. In addition, the admissions committee reserves the right to assemble a cohort of participants who it deems will work well together and maximize advancement of the language. On occasion, this may include learners who might not have as much experience, but who offer exceptional long-term promise for learning and advancing the language.

Age. Participants should be 16 years of age or older by the start of the academy. No one younger than 16 years can be accommodated at this time. Anyone under 18 years old will need a parent or guardian’s permission to participate.

Residence. One of our goals is to build a community of speakers in a specific geographical area who can share the language in follow-up sessions after the academy and in years to come. Applicants should reside in or attend school in Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin, eastern North Dakota, or the region of Ontario bordering Minnesota. If temporarily removed, they should have a relationship with an Ojibwe language community in this region.

Dissemination. Among the applicants who meet the above qualifications, priority will be given to applicants who plan to advance the language through teaching, performance, writing, community programs, family instruction, or by similar means of dissemination.

Exceptions. The above requirements are not meant to be exclusionary. We are trying to build a group of strong speakers who can carry the language into the future and pass it on to the next generation. Nonetheless, we know that each person has a different situation. If you do not meet one of the above requirements, but you feel that we should consider your application, please email us with a compelling explanation for why we should do so. If you make a good case, we will consider yours alongside other applications.

Expectations. Before the Academy: All participants will be expected to complete homework assignments to prepare themselves for the intense immersion environment that they will be living in for two weeks. Assignments will be designed to help students prepare themselves for what they will learn at the Academy. It is strongly recommended that new students also enroll in the May-term immersion course at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. More information about the course and scholarships for tuition will be provided to new applicants during the interview process, if applicable. During the Academy: Participants in the academy will commit themselves to speak Ojibwe and only Ojibwe for the duration of the two-week program as they engage in large and small group learning with first speakers, receive grammatical instruction from language faculty, and engage in field trips using Ojibwe in a variety of situations and environments. This commitment includes giving up using cell phones, computers, iPods, and other English language media during the academy. A phone number will be available for family and friends to contact participants, and participants will have access to their phones if needed once daily. This is not meant to be restrictive; it is our intention is to create as close to a complete Ojibwe immersion environment as possible.Academy participants will meet for the entire duration of the Academy. The first week will run from Sunday noon until Friday after dinner. The second week, from Sunday afternoon until the next Saturday afternoon. We understand that participants have families and other commitments and may need time to leave the academy on the weekend. However, we highly encourage participants to stay through the weekend and continue speaking the language to one another. There are no structured activities or meals on the weekend, but groceries will be supplied. Also each dorm room has its own kitchen if students would like to cook their own meals. In past years we have cooked meals together and gone to different events and powwows on the weekends. It’s a time to relax and process the week while still staying in an Ojibwe language environment. After the Academy: All students will be expected to stay until the end of programming on Saturday, June 24th, 2017, and must stay after programming to pack up and clean their room.

Visitors. In our efforts to create a stable Ojibwe language learning environment, and due to our classroom space limitations, we cannot easily accommodate visitors to the academy. This includes children and family members of participants. Our hope is that through this intense language learning experience, participants will gain an increased language proficiency that they can then bring into their families and communities after they have completed the academy.

Academic Credit. Participants may have the option of enrolling in the academy for up to six academic credits offered through Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. These completed credits will then be transferable to other colleges on a case-by-case basis. Participants taking the credit option will receive a grade, will incur tuition and fee charges, and will be encouraged to seek additional support to cover these expenses. Often, tribal education departments and sometimes college and university education, language, or native studies departments have funds available for the costs of immersion experiences such as this. If you are interested in receiving academic credit while attending the Academy, please note this on your application.

Costs. Every applicant accepted into the Ojibwe Immersion Academy will be able to attend regardless of his or her financial resources. No one accepted will be turned away for financial reasons. At the same time, a labor-intensive instructional program with a low teacher to student ratio costs a great deal. To help sustain this program, we must ask participants to help defray the costs of their room, board and travel by contributing up to $1,000 from their home tribe, community organization, local businesses, or family resources. As part of your application, we will ask for your good-faith commitment to seek financial support if you are admitted. We will pay for your instruction and materials if you will do your best to cover the costs of your room, board and travel. Identifying local financial support will help you now and will lay the groundwork for support for participants from your area who may attend the academy in the future.

Applications. Application materials can be requested by email to or downloaded at our website at The packet will contain instructions in Ojibwe for providing information about your language background, formal education, speaking proficiency, and future plans. Your application will include answering questions about your Ojibwe language learning experience and a short Ojibwe essay. The Ojibwe portion may be difficult, but consider it a learning experience. Use your Ojibwe notes, literature resources, or dictionaries. Get advice from a first speaker, friend, or teacher and send us an email if you need further assistance. In addition, applications should include a short video clip with quality sound of the applicant speaking the language informally in a natural, conversational style. The video-sound clip can include another person as long as the applicant clearly demonstrates her or his facility with the language. We suggest you submit your application and video well before the deadline, to avoid technical difficulties preventing your application from being complete. All applications must be submitted by email to Please submit an organized application. The written portion should be typed and submitted as an email attachment along with your video clip. We will not accept late applications, including missing portions or videos. We may also contact you for a Skype interview. After reviewing your application, we will inform you of available dates to choose from for your interview. Please continue to check your email to ensure you do not miss the deadline to sign up for an interview.

Deadline. All applications must be submitted by email to before noon on Thursday, March 9, 2017. No applications can be accepted after that date. Application review involves multiple reviewers, so that an optimal group can be selected. We will notify you of your acceptance, non-acceptance, or assignment to the wait list by Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Acceptance decisions will be made by the review committee comprised of faculty, program staff and community members.

To Request an Application Packet. To obtain an application packet please email your request to with “application request” in the subject line or visit our website at All applications are due before noon on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Nishnaabemwin Web Dictionary: An Odawa and Eastern Ojibwe Online Dictionary [posted August 8, 2016]

The Nishnaabemwin Web Dictionary, an Odawa and Eastern Ojibwe online dictionary, contains over 12,000 words from the Ojibwe languages known as Odawa (Ottawa), spoken along the shores of Lake Huron, and Eastern Ojibwe. Edited by Mary Ann Naokwegijig-Corbiere and Rand Valentine, the dictionary is located at Nishnaabemwin Dictionary. It represents the result of 20 years of careful and intensive documentary research conducted by the editors with elders and speakers of the language, including on-site elicitation and checking sessions carried out by Dr. Naokwegijig-Corbiere in Curve Lake, M'Chigeeng, Sagamok, Walpole Island, and Wikwemikong in Ontario. You can search in Nishnaabemwin or English, view the full Nishnaabemwin and English dictionaries using the browse feature, and search for Nishnaabemwin words or English keyword that begin with, end with, or contain any sequence of sounds. It is richly illustrated with example sentences.  

New Bachelor of Arts in Ojibwe Language at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities [posted July 4, 2016]

The Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities announced this spring a new major in Ojibwe language. The announcement noted that "what distinguishes this program from any other is our use of both academically rigorous grammatical instruction (supported by linguistic research) coupled with the use of immersion techniques inside the classroom. This method has proven to be a very powerful combination in helping our students reach a high level of proficiency in the Ojibwe language. Students who complete the program... will have the foundational skills to contribute to Ojibwe langauge community building by bringing the Ojibwe language back into the home, to go into the high-demand field of immersion teaching, and to work in langauge preservation programs."

For further information, call Brittany Anderson, outreach coordinator in the Department of American Indian Studies, at 612 626-5759 or e-mail her at

Brenda Child Awarded Honorary Degree by Knox College. [posted July 4, 2016]

Dr. Brenda Child, Profesor of American Studies and American Indian Studies at the Univesity of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a co-founder of the Ojibwe People's Dictionary, was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Latters by Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois on June 5, 2016. The citation noted that "her continued work for her community, in both language reclamation and constitutional revision, speaks eloquently of her passion for the continued flourishing of the Ojibwe people."  For a picture and the full citation, see:

Migizi Receives Ph.D. in Ojibwe Linguistics from the University of Minnesota. [posted April 29, 2016, revised July 4, 2016]

Michael Migizi Sullivan from Lac Courte Oreilles received a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities on April 29, 2016 for his thesis on Ojibwe relative clauses. He is currently Assistant Professor of Ojibwe at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth and a staff member at Waadookodaading Ojibwe Immersion School. Regan Kohler, writing in the Sawyer County Record for May 14, reported:

As a doctor of linguistics, Sullivan said it will not only allow him to publish more work but gives him tools on how the Ojibwe language relates to cognitive development in youth. It will also make him more competitive for securing grants, and will tie his professional work into his work at Waadookodaading, where he is the school linguist.

He is currently working on a plan to create a user-friendly Ojibwe grammar course for Immersion School parents. Sullivan said while teaching at the school, which goes through sixth grade, he found many students enrolled aren’t learning it from their parents. This course will not only help the parents keep the language going, but create more communication in the families.

He said at Waadookodaading, the number of children who already spoke Ojibwe in the home is small but growing, and staff’s children and grandchildren are often speaking it already.

“That number’s getting bigger and bigger,” Sullivan said. “The future’s real bright.”

When asking students what they want to be when they grow up, he said about 95 percent say they want to come back to teach at the Immersion School. He encourages them to start small, especially at LCOOCC if they can, as he felt the college is a great springboard for them as it was for his career.

He said his great uncle was one of his mentors, and helped him have the courage to succeed, that there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish if he wanted it badly enough.

“I had all of the struggles and obstacles that typically block our people from acquiring knowledge in the modern educational system,” he said. “Poor decision making in my early adult years set me back, but did not prevent me from achieving success in academia. As a firm believer in our traditional ways and the power of our tobacco, I simply asked for guidance and followed the path of where the tobacco led me.

“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Minawaanigwendan bimaadiziwin, aabajitoon gaa-kikinoo’maagooyan, debweyenindizon anishinaabewiyan! ‘Enjoy life, use what you have been taught, believe in yourself as an Anishinaabe person.’”

New Book Announcements: Three Ojibwe Language Books from Minnesota [posted May 5, 2016]

Three recent Ojibwe langauge books from Minnesota are: Ojibwe Discourse Markers by Brendan Fairbanks, Aanjikiing / Changing Worlds: An Anishinaabe Traditional Funeral by Lee Obizaan Staples and Chato Ombishkebines Gonzalez, and Chi-mewinzha: Ojibwe Stories from Leech Lake by Dorothy Dora Whipple, edited by Wendy Makoons Geniusz and Brendan Fairbanks.

Ojibwe Discourse Markers

Ojibwe Discourse Markers by Brendan Fairbanks. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. $70.00.

Brendan Fairbanks examines the challenging subject of discourse markers in Ojibwe, one of the many indigenous languages in the Algonquian family. Mille Lacs elder Jim Clark once described the discourse markers as “little bugs that are holding on for dear life.” For example, discourse markers such as mii and gosha exist only on the periphery of sentences to provide either cohesion or nuance to utterances. Fairbanks focuses on the discourse markers that are the most ubiquitous and that exist most commonly within Ojibwe texts.

Much of the research on Algonquian languages has concentrated primarily on the core morphological and syntactical characteristics of their sentence structure. Fairbanks restricts his study to markers that are far more elusive and difficult in terms of semantic ambiguity and their contribution to sentences and Ojibwe discourse.

Ojibwe Discourse Markers is a remarkable study that interprets and describes the Ojibwe language in its broader theoretical concerns in the field of linguistics. With a scholarly and pedagogical introductory chapter and a glossary of technical terms, this book will be useful to instructors and students of Ojibwe as a second language in language revival and maintenance programs.

Brendan Fairbanks is an assistant professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The work is based on Fairbanks’s 2009 doctoral dissertation in linguistics at the University.

Order from your local bookstore.

Aanjikiing / Changing Worlds: An Anishinaabe Traditional Funeral

Aanjikiing / Changing Worlds: An Anishinaabe Traditional Funeral by Lee Obizaan Staples & Chato Ombishkebines Gonzalez. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics, Memoir 22. 2015. Pp. xxv, 170; ISBN 978-0-921064-22-0 $ 30

Aanjikiing / Changing Worlds is a model teaching text of an Anishinaabe traditional funeral ceremony as conducted by spiritual leader Lee Obizaan Staples in the Ojibwe language. 

Lee Obizaan Staples is one of the spiritual advisors for the Mille Lacs reservation in Minnesota and is a fluent speaker of Ojibwemowin. Obizaan spends most of his time conducting ceremonies and feasts, including funerals, to meet the needs of Anishinaabe in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Obizaan is also a ceremonial drum keeper and runs a Mide Lodge at Mille Lacs. 

Chato Ombishkebines Gonzalez is Obizaan’s language apprentice and oshkaabewis. Ombishkebines comes from the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Wisconsin and has worked with Obizaan for over ten years. He graduated with a degree in Ojibwemowin from the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2013.

Their work on culture and language maintenance has been supported by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Band, presented copies of Aanjikiing to members at the annual State of the Band address in January, 2016.

In his introduction, Obizaan tells how he learned and was called to perform this ceremony. He explains why he had it written down: “Maanoo da-ayaawag ge-ni-bimiwidoojig i’iw akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigoowiziyang anishinaabewiyang / so there are others in the future who can carry on these teachings we have been given as Anishinaabe” and provides detailed guidance for those Anishinaabe who will be called to conduct funerals, closing with a reminder to them that tobacco should be presented to him or Ombishkebines “dabwaa-aabajitooyeg omaa gaa-ozhibii’amaang / before you use what we have written here.”

A preface by Michael Migizi Sullivan, Assistant Professor of Ojibwemowin at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, introduces Obizaan, describes the production of the written text, and discusses the role the published text will have in the continuation of this Anishinaabe tradition.

The introduction and the following six stages of the funeral ceremony are presented in Ojibwe language text and a facing-page parallel English text. An Ojibwe-English glossary allows language students to access the Ojibwe text more directly. 

You can find out more about Aanjikiing in a bilingual article by the authors in an issue of Ojibwe Inaajimowin (January 2016, pp. 12, 14) from the Mille Lacs Band that you can download at: Follow their other bilingual articles in the free monthly issues of this on-line magazine.

In the US, Aanjikiing can be ordered from Birchbark Books: 

$30 plus shipping, order at, or visit the store at 2115 W 21st St., Minneapolis, MN 55405, phone 612 374-4023.

In Canada, Aanjikiing can be ordered from Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics:

$30, Department of Linguistics, 15 Chancellor’s Circle, 534 Fletcher Argue, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5V5. Price includes carriage; not subject to GST/PST; no discounts or returns; cheques payable to University of Manitoba – Voices of Rupert’s Land Fund. For orders from outside Canada, the price is to be read as US-$ or Euro.

Anishinaabe nations and organizations can receive a fifty percent discount for orders in multiples of 30 copies: 

Contact Chato Ombishkebines Gonzalez at <> for ordering information.

Chi-mewinzha: Ojibwe Stories from Leech Lake 

Chi-mewinzha: Ojibwe Stories from Leech Lake by Dorothy Dora Whipple, edited by Wendy Makoons Geniusz and Brendan Fairbanks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. $21.95.

These are the stories of an Ojibwe elder in the original Ojibwe, with English translation. Dorothy Dora Whipple, whose Anishinaabe name is Mezinaashiikwe, is an elder from the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota who currently lives in Cass Lake. She was a member of the Minneapolis American Indian Community for many years. She has spoken Ojibwe her entire life and has worked on numerous Ojibwe language revitalization projects, including the University of Minnesota’s Ojibwe Language CD-ROM Project.

In the first ninety-five years of her life, Dorothy Dora Whipple has seen a lot of history, and in this book that history sees new life. A bilingual record of Dorothy’s stories, ranging from personal history to cultural teachings, Chi-mewinzha presents this venerable elder’s words in the original Ojibwe and in English translation to create an invaluable resource for learning this cherished language. It includes an Ojibwe-English glossary and illustrations by Annemarie Geniusz.

Order from your local bookstore or from Birchbark Books:

$21.95 plus shipping, order at or visit the store at 2115 W 21st St., Minneapolis, MN 55405, phone 612 374-4023.


- John D. Nichols