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Chanie Wenjack School

Gowski College in the moonlight from across the Otonabee river
for Indigenous Studies

Chanie Wenjack School


Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Anishinaabe nation, is one of the oldest and most historically important Native American languages in North America, but it is in danger of becoming extinct if not passed on to a new generation.  In earlier times, the language was passed on orally from a tribe’s Elders to its younger members, but in more recent times, this practice has fallen victim to outside influences.

The word Anishinaabe translated means a good person.  Anishin means good and aabe comes from the word yaabe meaning the male species.  The female in Anishinaabe is kwe.  When we use mowin on the end of Anishinaabe, it simply means the language of the good person.  We as the Anishinaabe nation never wrote our language until about 40 years ago.  In the past, missionaries and linguists tried to write Anishinaabemowin, but since they were not speakers of this language, they were unable to do so.  Now that some of us are teaching the language, which has never been done before, we are writing it as well.  It is very important that we use a standard system throughout our nation.  We do not have our own alphabet, so we can use the English language phonetically as best as we can.  It is indeed a challenge to write the unwritten.