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  • Writer's picture7000Languages

Reclaiming: Indigenous Peoples Day.

Chief Ne-gon-na-geseg and his wife Mudwa examine a deer hide she is tanning, in front of bark dwelling at Fort Mille Lacs Indian village. Copyright Minnesota Historical Society Collections.

Every year in the beginning of October, we do our best to reflect on the shameful and wholly untrue history most of us have been taught since youth. We take time to acknowledge the suffering, cultural erasure, and generational trauma that has stemmed from decades of hailing a white male explorer a "hero", instead of what he really was- an opportunistic, cruel, lucky, murderer. Indigenous Peoples Day is a day of resistance, protest and strength. This day stands for an unwavering effort to reclaim truth, identity, language and more. The communities who have fought so hard, and are still fighting, to honor their ancestors, traditions and cultures have culminated a global movement in pursuit of justice and peace for their people.

As a non-profit organization who has the privilege of working with Indigenous communities across Turtle Island and beyond, we have formed relationships with the most inspiring, passionate and resilient people. Our work means nothing without the collaborative efforts of our community partners. It is an honor to be able to offer our services, aiding our partners in their long awaited journeys to reconnect with their language. This month and beyond, we would like to take the time to shine a light on our incredible partners from past to present, in the hopes of continuing to uplift their voices, staying true to our mission, vision and values.

In 2009, one of our very first partners, Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia, graciously entrusted us to aid in the creation of their Ojibwe language course. We are honored to have fostered a meaningful relationship with everyone who worked on this project, and to continue building on that same partnership 14 years later. In honor of today, we asked Mary Hermes, Ph.D., executive director and founder to share about their organization, it's growth and all of the incredible things they have planned to reclaim their history and and their future.

Q: Tell us about Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia:

A: Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia (GIM) is a nonprofit organization established in 2000 by veteran tribal school teachers Mary Hermes (LCO Ojibwe community member) and Kevin Roach (Bad River Ojibwe) to aid in the efforts of the Ojibwe language revitalization movement through creating and distributing high quality indigenous language materials. Using tech in innovative ways, Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia aims to help close the gap between those who are trying to learn and the speakers of our Indigenous languages. Since our founding, we have developed a strong base of knowledge for documenting elder language and creating accessible learning media for language regeneration. In this way, we are re-creating but still responsive to the way past generations spoke and thought.

Mary (Waabishkiimiigwan) Hermes, Founder

Q: What is the organization's primary focus?

A: We create multimedia Ojibwe language materials and provide training and support for language teaching. It is estimated that fewer than 1000 fluent First Speakers of Ojibwe are living in Minnesota and Wisconsin today. Despite centuries of colonial violence and cultural genocide, growing numbers of people are working tirelessly to revitalize the language. Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia exists to connect language resources, materials, and teaching support to the diverse needs of the language revitalization community.

Q: What is something fun/exciting that you would like to share more about?

A: We will be thrilled to release Reclaim! to the world in 2025. In the video game Reclaim!, by Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia, players take on the role of a young Ojibwe teen named Miskwanangookwe (Miskwaa for short), who must solve puzzles and navigate through different environments while learning Ojibwe words and phrases.

The game features colorful graphics and engaging gameplay that appeals to players of all ages. By incorporating elements of traditional Ojibwe storytelling and culture, Reclaim! provides an authentic and immersive experience for players. Reclaim! is spearheaded by a full leadership team of Indigenous creatives.

"Our Indigenous nations here in the US have rich and meaningful culture. We don't need to explain to each other the importance of respecting the traditions and land, giving us more time to create a visual love letter in the form of a game. Games let us be a part of experiences and we get to share that with others through our lens,” - Renee Nejo, Project Art Director.

Reclaim! is not just a fun game, but an important tool for preserving and promoting the Ojibwe language. By making learning the language an enjoyable experience, the game encourages more people to learn and use the language in their daily lives.

Reclaim! is a totally different project than anything I’ve ever worked on in so many ways. First of all I have never worked on a project that was less of a ‘product’ and more of a community good. That difference lines up so much with what I believe art should be. Getting to see a group of artists not only work towards a net good for the community, but also get to have this level of creative freedom is more than I could have asked for. This is for Natives, by Natives.” - Josh Herron, Artist

We hope that players will enjoy the game and learn something new about the Ojibwe language and culture.

"We as a team we aren’t trying to preserve the language or the culture, rather we want to add to the growing contemporary landscape of Indigenous media. The ultimate goal is to create a play experience that feels wholly Ojibwe, from the language to the setting,” - Mary (Waabishkiimiigwan) Hermes, Founder

Want to give the game a try?

Want to help support Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia and their continued efforts to protect and preserve Ojibwe?

Want to learn more about the Ojibwe language?

(Use code GIM1234)

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