Ojibwe Language Camp Delivers Learning, Fun

Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 22-2: Crossing Borders, Winter 2010, Arts & Language, Community & Partnerships, Culture, Tribal College News

At the end of June, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FLTCC, Cloquet, MN) helped sponsor the Nagaajiwanaang (Fond du Lac) Ojibwe Language Immersion Camp. More than 300 people attended the four-day gathering, which was held at a Kiwenz Campground on Minnesota’s Big Lake. This was the camp’s second year.

Families gathered from all of the Minnesota-based Ojibwe bands as well as from Wisconsin and Canada, according to a story in Indian Country Today. Some people came from regional Dakota bands. There were seven waaginogaanan – domed lodges – built, and instructors taught traditional arts, including how to make birch bark baskets, flutes, clay pottery, hand drums, ricing poles, and knockers and bannock (on a stick).

In addition to language activities, the weekend also featured canoe races, games, a talent show, a presentation on how traditional and Western medicine can work together by Ojibwe physician Dr. Arne Vainio, and performances by singer-musician Keith Secola and traditional flutist Frank Montano.

Pat and Jim Northrup, along with Rick Gresczyk, a fluent Ojibwe speaker, conceived of the camp while discussing preservation of Ojibwe during a Scrabble game. “We hear people speak about, ‘We should do this or maybe we should do that,’ about preserving the language,” says Pat Northrup. “We decided to do this (the camp).”

She adds that during the camp’s first year—when they lacked financial resources—they hosted fewer than 200 participants. In addition to FLTCC, this year’s sponsors included the Fond du Lac Band, Duluth Public Schools, College of St. Scholastica, University of Wisconsin-Superior, University of Minnesota, and Minneapolis’s Indian Education Program. A winter storytelling event and silent auction raised $2,700. Families and adult centers in three towns on the Fond du Lac Reservation – Sawyer, Brookston, and Cloquet – and the Mask-Ka-Wisen Treatment Center all contributed meals.

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