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Birchbark Blog


Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Walter R. Echo-Hawk, a hero of persistence and one of the most thoughtful and engaging of writers, takes on the 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided in the book I am reading now.  In the Courts of the Conqueror is written with such passion, wit, and candor that I literally can't put this book down.  Even though it is heavy.  True, it is painful to come to terms with the truth about what happens in the court system, particularly the Supreme Court.  It is even more difficult to resist the flow of history and precedent and re-imaging a society based on justice.  Patricia N. Limerick says in her introduction that this book is "an effective challenge to the fatalistic school of history."  As such, while reading it you may be outraged and startled -- but the fact that it, and the writer, exist and fight on gives one hope.  Plus, a fascinating read.  

Nobody but Gerald Vizenor could write the words "cosmoprimitive casino series", or "mongrel driving schools", or describe the Band Box Diner and capture with such skewed energy what it means to be an Indian, an Anishinaabe, a human being on and off the White Earth Reservation here in Minnesota.  Shrouds of White Earth is another wildly laudable work by our master ironist.  A meditation on Native Art, Marc Chagall, George Morrison, The Gallery of Irony Dogs, and too much else to mention, this book is a small feast just in time for our favorite holiday -- whatever else happened on that fateful pilgrim afternoon I am thankful for Visioner, I mean Vizenor.  

Can you take The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book?  It isn't funny, and the pictures are brutal, but that's the real history and Gord Hill tells it in quick takes.  This book is packed with information and particularly valuable for the information on resistence in British Columbia at Ts'peten and at Aazhoodena.

Lyrical, moving, quiet and profound, the photographs taken by John Willis on Pine Ridge are that rare artifact -- art that increases the dignity and beauty of the subject while remaining honest.  Mr. Willis spent many years visiting and revisiting the people and places he photographed.  There is a clear, deep love in many of these images.  Views from the Reservation is a large photography book, a collection, but you wouldn't put it on your coffee table.  I carry my copy from place to place in the house because even the endpapers provoke meditation.  

First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language

Birchbark Books - Monday, November 01, 2010
Narrated by Louise Erdrich.  Featuring Anton Treuer.
From Twin Cities Public Television.

The entire show can now be viewed online!

A language is lost every fourteen days. One of those endangered tongues is Minnesota’s own Ojibwe language. Now a new generation of Ojibwe scholars and educators are racing against time to save the language. Working with the remaining fluent-speaking Ojibwe elders, they hope to pass the language on to the next generation. But can this language be saved?  Told by Ojibwe elders, scholars, writers, historians and teachers, this tpt original production is filled with hope for the future.
Find all airdates here.

Video preview:

About First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language

As recent as World War II, the Ojibwe language (referred to as ojibwemowin in Ojibwe) was the language of everyday life for the Anishinaabe and historically the language of the Great Lakes fur trade.  Now this indigenous language from where place names like Biwabik, Sheboygan and Nemadji State Forest received their names is endangered.

The loss of land and political autonomy, combined with the damaging effects of U.S government policies aimed at assimilating Native Americans through government run boarding schools, have led to the steep decline in the use of the language.  Anton Treuer, historian, author and professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and featured in First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language, estimates there are fewer than one thousand fluent Ojibwe speakers left in the United States, mostly older and concentrated in small pockets in northern Minnesota with fewer than one hundred speakers in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Dakota combined.

Treuer is a part of a new generation of Ojibwe scholars and educators who are now racing against time to save the language and the well-being of their communities.  Narrated by acclaimed Ojibwe writer, Louise Erdrich, First Speakers tells their contemporary and inspirational story.  Working with the remaining fluent Ojibwe speaking elders, the hope is to pass the language on to the next generation.  As told through Ojibwe elders, scholars, writers, historians and teachers, this TPT original production reveals some of the current strategies and challenges that are involved in trying to carry forward the language.

First Speakers takes viewers inside two Ojibwe immersion schools: Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion School on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bena, Minnesota and the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion Charter School on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation near Hayward, Wisconsin. In both programs, students are taught their academic content from music to math entirely in the Ojibwe language and within the values and traditional practices of the Ojibwe culture. Unique to the schools is the collaboration between fluent speaking elders and the teachers who have learned Ojibwe as their second language.

First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language provides a window into their innovative and intergenerational learning experience and the language they are determined to save.

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