Meet Our New Director of Development!
We are thrilled to introduce the newest member of our team, Ajuawak Kapashesit. We asked him a few questions to help everyone get to know him better.
Please introduce yourself: Boozhoo/Aaniin/Wachay/Hello! My name is Ajuawak Kapashesit and I come from the communities of Moose Factory and White Earth. I am the new Director of Development at 7000 Languages!
Q: Where does your passion for language reclamation come from? When did it start?
A: I grew up in two communities, one Cree and one Ojibwe. Both had different
language speaking abilities: The Cree community had a decent amount of speakers and you could hear Cree in plenty of places, on the Ojibwe side there were very few speakers left and it was rare to hear outside of ceremony. It wasn’t until college that I learned that language reclamation was really a thing and I immediately dove in as it was such an exciting and amazing field that ties together so many things and is closely linked to my experiences in my heritage communities. Working in the field has been a great way I could help my community and others which is a great feeling!
Q: What was your first language-related job/internship?
A: My first gig was actually at our community radio station on the White Earth Reservation. They were looking for content to play on the airwaves. I had recently learned about the use of radio in English language learning in Africa and figured it would probably work for Ojibwe too. So I made some recordings of grammatical lessons I had learned, as well as simple phrases and words that they could play throughout the day to teach people Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language. I’ve been told they still use some of the recordings to this day!
Q: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment thus far? What are you most proud of?
A: Honestly, it’s a tough question as there are tons of things I’ve been able to do in my career I’m super proud of. Transcribing archival linguist notes into modern orthography for a dormant language being revived, recording songs with one of the last speakers of another language, directing a documentary about language revitalization through technology. There’s always great experiences and opportunities in the field, and I feel there’s more still to do!
Q: As the new Director of Development at 7000 Languages, what are you most looking forward to?
A: I’m excited to partner with communities and individuals working towards language reclamation goals. I’ve had tons of experience in the field and now through this role I’ll be able to learn more about others doing this work and how best to support them and expand access to language learning technology which is one of my favorite things!
Q: What kind of advice would you offer someone looking to get involved with Indigenous language reclamation?
A: If it’s something you want to dive into, there are tons of different opportunities and areas. As a field it has so many facets and areas that need help. You don’t have to be trained as a linguist or have a lot of tech skills. You mostly need to have an open mind to explore both the language you’re working on and the creativity to think through the challenges you’ll face.
If it’s your own language, think about what’s important to you that you learn, whether it’s ceremonial or just everyday conversation- there really isn’t a wrong answer. If you’re interested in working in the field but not in your community or language and you instead want to help a community or group in their language goals, the main thing to remember is that the language and the reclamation belongs to the community it comes from and your goal is to support them in those efforts in whatever ways they welcome.
Fun Fact: A short film I co-directed had a premiere at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood where the original Star Wars premiered.