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Anishinaabemowin is the Language of my Ancestors

I was born with my language Anishinaabemowin. Anishinaabemowin is the language of my ancestors. It is a language given to our people by our Great Creator, Great Spirit. It is a language of my ancestors and has been spoken since the beginning of time.

I thank my parents and ancestors for speaking our first language to my siblings and me from birth. I also thank my ancestors for being strong and staying connected to their ways, and never giving up on our ways. It is truly a gift that I can speak Anishinaabemowin. Today I remain proud knowing that I can speak my language. I carry my language deep in my heart in the same way that I carry my ancestors deep in my heart. 

Many of our people do not speak our language due to our people attending residential schools. These schools were forced upon my people by the Government of Canada through their policies. This is a sad history of Indigenous people coerced into attending residential schools, again through Canada’s laws and policies. Our people who attended residential schools were not allowed to speak their language and were shamed and beaten for speaking it. Today we can speak our languages without fear and live our way of life.  

My ancestors carried an ancient and an old language embedded into our way of life. Anishinaabemowin is a spiritual language. It is a sacred language. For many generations, Anishinaabemowin has flowed through the veins of my ancestors, and our language now flows in my veins. It will flow through the veins of many future generations. Anishinaabemowin is in our blood. It is in our DNA. Our culture is embedded in our languages in our ways of knowing and doing. Apijii kijii inaandagood chii Anishinaabemow wang is a great gift, an honour, and imperatively important that we speak our language.  

Indigenous people speak their language because it connects us back to our identity, it connects us back to our Earth Mother and to our sacred lands and the original ways of our people. Our people are rooted deep into our way of life on Turtle Island, our home. Our old people tell us that we are a people of the land. Our language connects us to our Anishinaabe and sacred ways. We understand that our survival depends on our Earth Mother, so we must care for her and the land. Language helps us understand our relationships and connection to all life, and we respect all life. We must be kind to our Earth Mother and teach all people to respect all life. Our way of life is about reciprocity. We only take what we need from our Earth Mother, and we cannot exploit the land as it has been and is exploited today. Our relatives know that Mother Earth sustains all life and is the main source of life.  

As Anishinaabe people, we are interconnected to all life and our universe. Through our teachings from our old people, we understand that our Earth Mother is the original mother to all. We are all related. We are related to the sun, the stars, the moon, the water, and the animals. In our world, we are all interconnected. We were born as spiritual beings.  

The Anishinaabe people recognize and understand that we must respect all life. We are stewards of the land as our people have always been because we love our ancestral homeland. We also understand that we are responsible for taking care of the land. As our elders and old people say, “We are a people of the land; the land is our home.” I understand what our old people mean when they communicate those words. When outside with nature, we enjoy breathing the air and seeing the sun shine on us and everything around us. My late father used to say to me, as his late father shared with him.  

“When you go outside in the morning and greet the sun, the sun is very happy to see you, and the sun heals you, the sun makes you feel his good energy.” – A quote from my late father.  

The sun is our grandfather, nimishoomis. When I go outside, I feel the wind. The wind speaks to us. Those are things that I am interconnected to, and it grounds me in my own walk in life. On our ancestral Aaki lands, my ancestors walked before me; they walked in their Moccasins for many generations. In Anishinaabemowin, Mukkis-in is the correct translation for moccasin, describing a shoe. The settlers could not say Mukkis-in, so they said moccasin. When I go outside, I see the beauty in nature and what the Great Spirit gave to the people. I can breathe through the trees, I am able to drink water, and I am able to use natural medicines for my own health and well-being. All of humanity received instructions on how to live in harmony with nature and with all life. Our natural laws are embedded in the land. These laws are Respect, Manajii-towin, Love, Zaagii-idiwin, Courage, Zoongi-tay-win, Honesty, Gway-a-kwaa-disiwin, Wisdom, Nibaakaawin, Humility, Da-ba-sayn-da-mowin and Truth, Day-bway-win. We also recognize that there are many other laws with other Indigenous nations and tribes. These natural laws are the values that our people have followed and understood since the beginning of time and since the beginning of our existence.  

In our nations and our communities, many of the older people continue to speak the language. However, we are challenged to keep our language alive and restored within our young people, which is a direct result of colonization. In many of our communities, we are working hard to restore and retain the language in our children and grandchildren. If we do not teach and speak our language to our young people, we will lose our language. We cannot let that happen. We must keep speaking and fully immerse language into our communities. Our children and grandchildren and our future generations deserve the right and have the right to know their language. That is their identity. Teaching the original languages, which are spiritual languages, is what is going to keep them connected to their ways. Our languages will strengthen their identity will strengthen their way of life, and strengthen their well-being. The language is going to connect them to their own spirit. 

Anishinaabemowin and all the other languages spoken across our Nations on Turtle Island are languages of beauty; it is our connection to our original and ancestral ways. It is our interconnection to nature and to our environment. Our language teaches us how to live with nature and all our relations. Our Earth Mother is our true mother; she is the mother who sustains all life. She is alive; she has a spirit. Through our Indigenous languages, we understand the natural laws of nature, the laws of the Great Spirit. If our Earth Mother is disrespected, she will show us. 

As Indigenous people, we must keep our spiritual and sacred language strong and continue to speak. Our grandchildren need their language. Full immersion of Anishinaabemowin in our communities is the direction we must go. 

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