A grassroots group from Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island has launched a new podcast to help foster and preserve the Anishnaabemowin language.
The Nawewin Gamik 49er Project features seven episodes with stories and music in the language.
Each episode features six stories, that range from comedy, to the supernatural and the dramatic, and one song.
Tracy Cleland, of Wikwemikong, said she has volunteered with the Namewin Gamik group to help teach her children that language.
“When I grew up, the language was very alive,” she said. “I mean, it still is today, but there’s just less and less every year.”
So far the feedback has been very good.– Tracy Cleland
Cleland has five children, and said her oldest never learned to speak Anishnaabemowin. But she has two-year-old twins who understand the language.
She said the podcast is a good way for learners to immerse themselves in the language at any time.
“So far, the feedback has been very, very good,” Cleland said. “And now there’s, you know, a good six, seven hours of language that they can listen to every day for speakers or new learners.”
The podcast’s namesake comes from the Nawewin Gamik group, which consists of elders who speak Anishnaabemowin fluently and the parents of young children who wanted to preserve the language for future generations.
Alanis King, the podcast’s artistic producer, said Wikwemikong First Nation has 8,000 band members, but only 500 of them speak Anishnaabemowin fluently.
King said the podcast was born out of necessity, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She comes from a theatre background, but decided a podcast would showcase her community’s deep oral tradition, while also keeping more vulnerable elders socially distanced while they recorded the episodes.
“We’re known for our oral tradition, carrying story and ceremony and traditional knowledge forward throughout the millennia through time,” King said. “So to me, it seemed like a perfect medium.”
It was also an advantage that a podcast series is cheaper to produce than a theatre production, or a video series.
“If we didn’t have to produce something for television or the film medium we could drastically reduce overhead and still come out with a quality project that you listen to,” King said.
To produce the project the group secured funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
King said Nawewin Gamik plans to produce more episodes. The end goal, she said, is to have 365 stories so listeners have one for every day of the year.