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Much of Anishinaabe culture is in the Anishinaabeg language. To lose our language would be to lose a part of ourselves. Very few people speak the Anishinaabeg language and fewer still know it as their first language. Anishinaabeg communities are working hard to regain what was lost to so many, developing language curricula, language lessons, language programs for schools and immersion programs for individuals and families.

During the times of termination, many Anishinaabeg children were taken away from their communities and placed in mission schools. They were dressed as white children and forced to give up their native language. Many had an aversion to speaking Anishinaabemowin even as adults because of the beatings they received when they were caught speaking Anishinaabemowin. One elder said that his hands hurt when he tried to speak Anishinaabemowin, because as a child in the mission school his hands were severely beaten with a ruler if he was caught.

During that time, many aspects of Anishinaabe culture were lost to most people—our language, our ceremonies, our spirituality, our way of life, our Native diet—almost everything that made our community distinct. Some people took on the duty of saving our life ways by taking them underground until the day they could be rekindled. And that day is now.

To learn more, please bring tobacco to a tribal elder or traditional healer and wait to pass them your tobacco until they have accepted so as not to obligate them. Also consult our Culture Division for many programs where you could learn more and meet people who could teach you.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY