Culture and Language Revitalization

Renewing Cultural Harmony: Revitalizing Indigenous Language Through Music

In the heart of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation on the Bruce Peninsula, a remarkable initiative called the “Renewal of Spirit Through Music” project is breathing life back into the Indigenous language of the Neyaashinigmiing community.

Music, the universal language, is the powerful catalyst behind this revitalization effort.

Music, the universal language, is the powerful catalyst behind this revitalization effort. 

St. Mary’s Neyaashiinigmiing Parish has a rich history dating back to the mid-1800s, and music, especially singing, was a vital aspect of church activities, often featuring hymns performed in the community members’ native language. Today however, the rich history of native language and music are nearly forgotten and no longer widely used in parish activities or the community. 

The Parish, deeply embedded in the community’s history since the mid-1800s, received a grant from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) to drive the “Renewal of Spirit Through Music” project. The project aims to rejuvenate traditions through collaborations and learning with other Indigenous organizations facing similar challenges and collect, catalogue and revive native hymns. They brought together a diverse team of Elders, parish members and Youth to embark on this cultural journey.

The Parish also arranged research-oriented field trips to the Saugeen First Nations, Wikwemikong First Nation and Sarnia First Nation to explore and learn revival techniques for retrieving and sharing native hymns.

Following these trips, the learned techniques were applied to the Neyaashinigmiing community’s songs, compiling the music and inviting Elders and Youth to participate in and observe the translation process.

Finally, social gatherings held at the Parish Hall presented these rediscovered hymns and music in the Native Language to the broader community while recording and preserving the songs for posterity.

This project also aims to work with the priests from St Mary’s of the Assumption and Missions, Owen Sound, who make weekly trips to the Neyaashiinigmiing parish, to see how the language and music can be included in their weekly Mass.

Through the “Renewal of Spirit Through Music,” St. Mary’s Neyaashiinigmiing Parish found a way to revive their Native Language and music, fostering cultural understanding and community healing. This project is a blueprint to inspire other Indigenous communities to preserve their heritage through collaboration and cultural resurgence.

Diocese of Hamilton