'Our culture is alive': Ojibwe storyteller regales Bemidji students
BEMIDJI--Some Bemidji Area Schools students got a taste of Ojibwe language and culture Thursday. Gordon Maajiigwaneyaash Jourdain's first language is Ojibwemowin and he teaches at Duluth Public Schools' Missabekong Ojibwe Immersion Program. Jourd...
BEMIDJI-Some Bemidji Area Schools students got a taste of Ojibwe language and culture Thursday.
Gordon Maajiigwaneyaash Jourdain's first language is Ojibwemowin and he teaches at Duluth Public Schools' Missabekong Ojibwe Immersion Program. Jourdain is an experienced storyteller who speaks more-or-less extemporaneously, and he spent most of Thursday regaling students at Bemidji Middle School and Gene Dillon Elementary with tales from his youth.
He recalled growing up with his grandmother in a "very, very traditional" Ojibwe community. A dog pestering him for a snack, Jourdain recalled, would keep wagging its tail and licking his hand after he told it off in English, but the dog would run away if he told it off in Ojibwemowin.
"Even our pets understood Ojibwe," Jourdain said with a smile.
Jourdain described traversing the horse trails near his childhood home in rural Canada, and recalled how wild ones would chase travelers across the trails. (To this day, he told the students, he's still afraid of horses.) And he remembered when he and his grandmother came upon a certain tree near one of those trails. Jourdain made an offer before removing some of the tree's boughs, he said.
"My grandmother's idea of life was everything was valuable, and you could not take anything more than what you really really needed," Jourdain told the students.
Jourdain introduced himself to the Gene Dillon students entirely in Ojibwemowin.
"When I stand before you, here, and I announce who I am, I am speaking the language of the people who lived here before anybody else got here," he said after that.
Dan Ninham, a physical education teacher at Bemidji Middle School, said he was impressed by Jourdain and arranged for him to speak to Bemidji Area Schools students. Jourdain mesmerized the students in Ninham's eighth-grade class Thursday for 50 minutes, Ninham said.
"It's important to have others, not only Native but Non-Native, so to speak, kids...experience a living culture," Ninham told the Pioneer. "Our culture is alive, and he brings that out."