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"Language Keepers" by Ajuawak Kapashesit

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

It is estimated that there are less than 1,000 native speakers of the Ojibwe language remaining in the U.S. Filmmaker Ajuawak Kapashesit, and our Director of Development, follows language keepers in Minnesota as they preserve the language from their elders. Can new technologies like social media and video games inspire a new generation to preserve Ojibwe language and traditions?

This short documentary film follows Dr. Mary Hermes, PhD., also known as Waabishkiimiigwaan; James Vukelich, also known as Kaagegaabaw; and Terry Goodsky as they use different forms of technology to revitalize the Ojibwe language in the Great Lakes region of North America. They come from diverse backgrounds as educators, academics, and a radio DJ to find new ways to share the language beyond traditional cultural settings and classrooms to give access to the language to those who may not otherwise have it.

As many Indigenous languages decline in use across the world due to the pressures of globalization and colonization, this film provides a snapshot of community members fighting back for the sake of their language. The use of technology in language revitalization, and the vital role it plays in our ever-changing lives, is seldom documented. This film provides an opportunity to showcase how some Indigenous language activists are bringing their language into new mediums and digital spaces and bringing the language out of the classroom and into the rest of the world.

As film often only provides Indigenous peoples exposure in a historical context – like Westerns and other period pieces – it is imperative to push back against these portrayals and provide opportunities for Indigenous narratives to be told in a contemporary setting, rejecting the historical interpretation that most viewers only experience of Indigeneity. Language Keepers provides audiences with contemporary Indigenous people, tackling modern problems with modern solutions.

You can watch Language Keepers here:

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