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Ojibwe-Dakota Light Rail Train Designed by Anishinaabe Artist Andrea Carlson Rolls Through the Twin Cities on the Green Line until June 10 [posted June 1, 2017]

A red and blue streetcar wrapped with Ojibwe and Dakota images and messages honoring water created by Anishinaabe artist Andrea Carlson will roll through the Twin Cities until the night of the Northern Spark 2017 festival on June 10. Carlson has taken as her themes a water panther on one side with the Dakota words Mni Wiconi (water is life) and on the other side a thunderbird with the words Nibi gaa-bimaaji'iwemagak (water gives life) in Ojibwe. The Ojibwe text appears in both the double-vowel system and syllabics. The artist noted, "I jumped at the opportunity to design a train that included the language of my Anishinaabe ancestors. Indigenous languages revitalization in the Twin Cities is happening not far off of the Green Line and throughout Minnesota. I learned to speak Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) at the University of Minnesota. While I was a student, back in 2000-2003, I remember a fellow student lamenting that we didn’t see Indigenous languages in our environments. The student mentioned seeing other languages and translations on government advertisements on buses. When I was approached to design the train, I thought about this student. With Indigenous language acquisition comes a worldview that challenges our alienation from the environment. Environmentalism is baked into our languages and philosophies. For Anishinaabemowin, it is contained in the etymology of words and root concepts. For those of us who are struggling to decolonize our minds seeing a message that implicates everyone in such a visible, public and undeniable way is a point of pride and affirmation."  In an interview with Elle Thoni, she said, "We have the tools to make sure that Dakota and Ojibwe don’t disappear, because they’re endangered languages. We have the tools to make sure that doesn’t happen, because that tool is our minds. Anyone can learn it, so we can save these languages. And I feel like the planet is in the same situation. It’s like, we have the tools to make sure this doesn’t happen. We have our minds."

To see a picture of the streetcar and read more about Andrea's views on language revitalization and the environment, visit her sections of the Northern Sparks site at and  To learn more about Andrea Carlson and her art, visit her site at

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