Culture and Language Revitalization

Learning Ojibwe: Language classes as a gateway to healing and identity

Boozhoo, a greeting, and miigwech, an expression of gratitude – these words are the foundation of the Ojibwe language.

In a deliberate attempt to sever the ties that bound Indigenous people to their cultural roots, speaking Ojibwe or any other Indigenous language was forbidden in the residential school system, resulting in a loss of cultural identity that is still acutely felt in communities today. Being able to reclaim these languages becomes a powerful act of resilience and reconciliation.

Ojibwe language speaker, Elder and educator Esther Diabo, herself a Survivor of nine years in residential schools, has dedicated herself to providing language classes as a pathway to healing and cultural restoration.

The funding secured through the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) covers church hall rentals, professional fees, and classroom materials. This support is crucial in ensuring that the classes can continue, offering a safe space for Survivors and Anishinaabe community members to reconnect with their language and identity.

Speaking Ojibwe becomes a form of deeper healing. It is a reclaiming of what was taken, a restoration of dignity, and a source of strength for those who endured residential schools. Looking ahead, Ms. Diabo envisions incorporating Ojibwe into church Mass through prayer, intertwining cultural and religious practices and fostering a more inclusive and authentic spiritual experience.

Diocese of Thunder Bay