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Anishnabe

Anishinaabemowin teacher Chris Gordon with his students at the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe School in Sault Ste. Marie.
Credit Rick Smith / Win Awenen Nisitotung

Language is an essential part of preserving the ancient ties to heritage and culture. And with the native language of the Ojibwe people starting to fade, Chris Gordon has made the preservation of his family's language part of his life's mission. 

Gordon is the first teacher in the state of Michigan to get a K-12 Foreign Language-Native teaching endorsement. He teaches Anishinaabemowin (pronounced a-NISH NAH-BEM-when), the native language of the Ojibwe people, at the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe School in Sault Ste. Marie.

picture of kelly church holding cradle board
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Soon, the entire park-like area we’re in will echo with the sound of pounding, metal against wood. It’s nearly a ringing or gong-like sound.

But first, Jeff Strand strips the bark from a black ash tree log. Then he takes out a knife and scores the end of it, a sort of pie wedge cut.

“So that the undergrowth rings have relief, so they’ll come up out of it as I’m crushing the growth rings. The ax is for crushing the fibers in between the growth rings and when you do that, they release,” Strand explains.