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Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe: Preserving Endangered Language


The Ojibwe language is one of several Indigenous dialects at risk of becoming extinct. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe recently took steps to prevent this and preserve a vital piece of culture. 

A Unique Partnership

The East Central Minnesotan Band of Ojibwe added their tribe to the growing list partnering with Rosetta Stone. The award-winning language education platform is taking steps to revitalize the Ojibwe language.

Because Ojibwe is rapidly losing native speakers, it’s part of Rosetta Stone’s Endangered Languages Program, which strives to prevent languages from dying out. 

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe members have lived in Minnesota for about 250 years. Despite this, Ojibwe was at grave risk of becoming extinct had tribe leaders not taken the initiative to partner with Rosetta Stone.

By adding the Ojibwe dialect to Rosetta Stone’s extensive catalog, Band members and the general public alike can more easily learn the language. On Rosetta Stone’s platform, users can access daily lessons about Ojibwe and tools to help them correctly pronounce words. 

Why The Ojibwe Language Is Endangered  

The reason behind the Ojibwe language decline dates back to the 19th Century. At the time, European settlers adamantly removed tribal members from their land.

On top of losing their territory, Native Americans were essentially forced to adapt their lifestyle to one of a non-Native. Occasionally, Natives would be brutally punished if they were caught speaking their language or performing cultural rituals. 

Imagining the devastating impact of losing such an integral part of a culture is difficult to comprehend. Still, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe website does an exceptional job summarizing the unimaginable events.

“Generations of Ojibwe people were stripped of their identity in an effort to achieve conformity,” the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe website reads. 

Regarding Native children, the government forced them to attend boarding schools designed to help them adjust to a new way of life. Consequently, the education system forbid them from speaking the Ojibwe language, practicing their religion, or maintaining cultural routines.

As a result, much of the Ojibwe language was lost. 

The Significance Of Preserving Language  

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s partnership with Rosetta Stone only comes with benefits. For tribe members, the program provides holistic support and reassurance that a piece of their history will remain intact. On top of that, it offers an educational opportunity for the public to learn more about Ojibwe culture. 

Language is often simply seen as something a community speaks and writes. But it’s more than that. A language offers priceless insight into a valuable piece of culture.

“As Anishinaabe people, our language was given to us by the Creator; learning that language helps us connect with our culture and live our lives in a good way,” Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin explains. 

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is a recent addition to the list of tribes partnered with Rosetta Stone to preserve their language. That said, some of the other Native communities with lessons available on Rosetta Stone include:

  • Chickasaw Nation in Ada, Oklahoma 
  • Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Kahnawake, Quebec 
  • Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana in Charenton, Louisiana
  • Inupiat Tribe in Kotzebue, Arkansas 
  • Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona 
  • Nunatsiavut communities in Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador  

Through the combination of history and technology, Rosetta Stone provides a service to keep the Ojibwe language alive for years to come.

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