WUOMFM

Through poetry Margaret Noodin keeps her Native American language alive

Apr 23, 2015

Margaret Noodin is an Assistant Professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Credit Troye Fox / UWM Photography

Margaret Noodin has made it her life’s work to fight for the future of the ancient Native American language Anishnaabemowin.

This is the language of “the People of the Three Fires”—the Odawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwe. These people came to the Great Lakes thousands of years ago.

Today, the language is threatened. They’re losing speakers faster than they’re gaining them.

Noodin’s new book of poetry is one way to keep this language alive and fresh. Weweni (Wayne State University Press) is a collection of poems in Anishinaabemowin and English.

"I became really curious about this place and the sound of this place. I mean, many of us are familiar with these words 'Michigan,' 'Wisconsin,' 'Maniwaki' - all these city names, place names that we're very familiar with - and so gradually I became much more interested in finding out how to use that language now, in these places," said Noodin. 

"It’s a mix between trying to really respect and imitate as closely and clearly as we can the tradition before us, but then also carry it forward as a modern vibrant language and allow it to change."

Noodin, with her daughters Shannon and Fionna, is a member of Miskwaasining Nagamojig (the Swamp Singers) a women’s hand drum group whose lyrics are all in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe).

To see and hear current projects visit her website where she and other students and speakers of Ojibwe have created a space for language to be shared by academics and the native community.