For many Native Americans centuries of colonization, forced assimilation, and unjust government policy have resulted in the disenfranchisement of countless indigenous peoples. Despite centuries of oppression, for many tribes like my own, language and storytelling have endured as integral facets of community and culture, yet many are still at risk of being lost. In my work Anishinaabemowin, I address issues surrounding endangered Native American languages while providing educational resources to convey the necessity of reclamation and preservation efforts.
Anishinaabemowin consists of a set of posters that provide current statistics on language loss in addition to a set of educational Ojibwa flash cards. The first poster features my late grandmother Lois Aldred who passed from Covid-19 earlier this year. My illustration is based on a photo taken by my mother Sherri Aldred that dealt with themes of dissolution and loss regarding my grandmother’s battle with dementia. The parallels of dementia and her passing serve as a representation of the imminent threat posed to countless indigenous languages like my own. As many elders and holders of traditional knowledge grow older, many languages are becoming endangered My grandmother functions as an icon depicting the necessity for cultural and language restoration while also representing the countless Native Elders who hold invaluable traditional and cultural knowledge. Placed behind her are various statistics on speakers and future projections for various Indigenous languages; included is information on historical events that have influenced current linguistic percentages. In an effort to address the threat to my tribal language of Ojibwa I created a series of ten flashcards that take influence from traditional Anishinaabe artwork. They are intended to help provide an easy educational format that can help rebuild cultural divides for people within my community.
With the vast majority of Native language speakers in their late sixties and a growing disconnect between individuals and their communities, without substantial effort, many Indigenous languages are at risk of being lost completely. Through Anishinaabemowin I aim to educate and revitalize interest for native individuals to aid in language, community, and culture preservation.