By Sharon Weatherall
Aaniin niijkiwe (Hello friend) ..Gdi Anishinaabem na (Do you speak Ojibwe)?
Beausoleil First Nation teacher B. Jeff Monague (Myiingan) has written a book introducing basic Ojibwe, the first in a series he will be working on and publishing through Bear Spirit Press. ‘Ahaw, Anishinaabem’ (Ok, Speak Ojibwe)’ – a phrase book for beginners, has been released in perfect timing for Christmas and would make a great stocking stuffer for people who are interested in learning their native language.
“It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to be able to offer this to people,” said Monague who has been teaching the language since 2000 to kindergarten through grade 12 and is currently a language instructor at Georgian College.
“At the time of this writing in 2014, our community of Christian Island in Ontario Canada is nearing extinction of our beautiful Ojibwe language – a language that I was fortunate to have grown up speaking.”
Ahaw, Anishinaabem’ (Ok, Speak Ojibwe) assists in the return and preservation of Anishinaabemowin. It reflects a local dialect which is a mixture of Odawa, Pottawatami and Southern Ojibwe due to the historical amalgamation of the displaced Ojibwe peoples and dialects to Christian Island in 1856. The publication is written using the Fiero System which is also known as the Double Vowel System – a writing system devised by a Jesuit
(Fiero) to assist in the teaching of Christianity to native people. The Fiero System is at present also the writing system being used to teach native children in schools.
Ahaw, Anishinaabem’ (Ok, Speak Ojibwe) is unique in that it has an audio link so that people can go on-line and listen to the sound of the words and phrases as they read. Audio can be accessed by contacting Monague through his email: firstname.lastname@example.org and providing proof of purchase to gain access to the link.
“People think it’s a great idea especially because of the audio link – you can pull it up anywhere even at a coffee shop on your phone,” said Monague.
The books can be obtained through www.BearSpiritPress.com for $9.99 and will be shipped to those who don’t mind waiting on delivery. Since publishing the book, Monague has experienced successful sales in Europe and USA but says he is not reaching the audience he wanted. His main goal at this time is to reach local and Ojibwe people across Ontario. Monague is currently marketing the books locally through Friendship Centres and through word of mouth. Personally he can get the book into the hands of the people easier.
“I am trying to reach people who are not on line or do not have credit cards,” said Monague.
“To get a copy now books are available through me at $20 each. I can be reached through my email email@example.com. Everything is being done through internet transactions through the bank, Pay Pal or Google Wallet – you set up an account and make the transaction, it’s easy. I will send the book or deliver it.”
Monague says local people are responding very well and he is looking forward to a second printing after Christmas. In the meantime people can order them through Bear Spirit Press on line.
Monague is looking forward to processing more books in the series to take people to a higher level of learning. He is currently working on a dictionary through working together with elders in the community and hopes to have this completed by March 31, 2015.
“Ahaw, Anishinaabem” ( Ok, Speak Ojibwe) is the phrase Monague’s father used with him as a boy to encourage speaking the language at home. In starting this project he is hoping to do his part to bring back the language loss.
“At this point it becomes a duty to pass this language along otherwise it’s gone within 20 years – in some communities it is gone already. The book includes slang as well as the proper way to say something because some people now use slang,” said Monague.
“Using this book as a tool the language is fairly easy to learn. To young people, they have to be devoted to it and we have to reach them in different ways that’s why I am using technology.”
The project has been rewarding says Monague who put the book together himself from scratch. The idea originally started as an e-book before he decided to publish.
“Another thing I want to encourage people is you can do a project like this from scratch – anyone can do it with very little money involved to put it together,” said Monague.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the Facebook page for ‘Ahaw, Anishinaabem’ (Ok, Speak Ojibwe)’.