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MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL For those interested in the Ojibwe language, they now have access to an online Ojibwe-English dictionary.
Listen to Elders like Eugene Stillday speak the language.
The University of Minnesota's Department of American Indian Studies launched a groundbreaking online Ojibwe dictionary, the Ojibwe People's Dictionary, at ojibwe.lib.umn.edu. Several Ojibwe elders contributed to the development of this unique dictionary.
A New Standard for Indigenous Languages
“This sets the standard for how indigenous languages will be learned and preserved into the future,”
said James A. Parente, Jr., dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
The Ojibwe People's Dictionary was conceived as a logical expansion of "A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe," published by the University of Minnesota Press and co-written by John D. Nichols, professor in the American Indian studies department and one of the foremost Algonquian language experts. The printed dictionary contains 7,000 words, but the new website has 8,000 words and could grow to 30,000.
More than just a translation tool or a dictionary, the Ojibwe People's Dictionary provides context. The entry for wild rice, for example, includes audio clips of four Ojibwe elders speaking the word manoomin; photos from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission; and snippets from texts, including meeting minutes, reports and research manuscripts dating from 1922.
Elder Marlene Stately contributed to the 60,000 audio clips.
Within the Ojibwe dictionary, objects "are in conversation with the language," said Brenda Child, chair of the Department of American Indian Studies at the university. It's a way of establishing cultural context through language. By merging the academic expertise of University scholars like Nichols with the visual resources of the Historical Society and others, the site is both casual and scholarly, cutting edge and useful to Native people who speak the language.
Why Preserve Ojibwe?
Like other indigenous languages around the world, Ojibwe is in decline for a number of reasons, including urban life, popular culture, the use of boarding schools for Native American children in the 19th and early 20th centuries and many more.
Linguists contend that language diversity is as important to our systems of knowledge as biological diversity is to our ecosystems. The Ojibwe language is a place where its people turn for philosophy, history, science, medicines, stories and spirituality.
Significant funding for the Ojibwe People's Dictionary came from Minnesota's Historical and Cultural Heritage Fund (i.e. Legacy fund), and the project has just been awarded another grant to support the next phase of the dictionary, which will incorporate feedback from users, enhance the virtual museum and add youth friendly features.
posted May 1, 2013 6:00 am edt