Anishinaabemowin at the University of Toronto


language camp

Syllabic Banner at CAI’s Language Immersion Camp

Last week, Robert Everett-Green shared his experiences of learning Anishinaabemowin in his Globe and Mail piece, How my neighbourhood looks and sounds in Ojibwe. Everett-Green first became interested in learning Anishinaabemowin after encountering  street signs in his neighbourhood that had been restored to their original Anishinaabewmowin place-names as part of the Ogimaa Mikana: Reclaiming/Renaming project.

Everett-Green describes his experience attending an Anishinaabemowin immersion camp at Alderville First Nation, sponsored by the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives at U of T, where he learned that languages are powerful carriers of worldviews and cultural knowledge.

Referring back to the Adam and Eve origin story, Everette-Green explains that Adam was instructed, “to name everything, to spread nouns over the Earth. Adam was also given dominion over everything he named”. Everette-Green says that the hierarchical order of beings within the Western worldview where human beings control all other living things stems from English being noun-based. In contrast, “Anishinaabemowin is very action-oriented. You can express a complete thought in a single verb, fitted out with prefixes and suffixes that indicate who is doing what to whom, and when”. Embedded within the verb-based language is worldview that places all beings on equal ground.

The article is a beautiful tribute to the power of language and Everett-Green captures the importance of language learning in developing just relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people on this land.

For those interested in developing language skills in Anishinaabemowin (sometimes referred to as Ojibway language), Aboriginal Studies offers Anishinaabewmowin I and II. The Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives also hosts a weekly Language Café, where guests participate in games and activities meant to encourage the learning of various Indigenous languages. For more information, check out our Events section. You can also hear Robert Evergreen-Green and the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives’ Connor Pion discussing their experiences learning Anishinaabemowin on the CBC’s MetroMorning show from April 7th, Learning Ojibway.