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Bemidji State University


S a v i n g a L a n g u a g e Fervent Quest

ing the Ojibwe language by attending traditional ceremonies. At the time, he was a reluctant student.

“My mother was always dragging me off to ceremonies, but as a typical kid, I didn’t really appreciate it,” reflects Treuer.

Yet he grew more intrigued and, at age 20, sought a spiritual apprenticeship with Archie Mosay, grand chief of the St. Croix Ojibwe and highly regarded medicine man.

Treuer drove to Mosay’s home in Balsam, WI, arriving unannounced.

“When I found Archie, he looked at me and said, ‘Oh, I’ve been waiting for you,’” recalls Treuer, who thought the greeting strange as the two had never officially met.

Dr. Anton Treuer

Some 20 years later, Mosay’s words ring prophetic, and Treuer speculates that Mosay anticipated their meeting in a dream. Although Mosay was a mentor to many, perhaps none were so intensely involved as Treuer. His mentorship instilled in Treuer a love for the Ojibwe language and a fervor to preserve it.

By some estimates, nearly half of the world’s languages are likely to vanish in the next 100 years as populations of fluent speakers age and die. Dr. Anton Treuer, associate professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, is deter- mined that the Ojibwe language not be one of the lost languages.

Raised on Minnesota’s Leech Lake reservation, Treuer remembers learn-

An Apprenticeship

Mosay accepted Treuer as an assis- tant, teaching him complicated ritu- als, songs, and legends committed to memory in the Ojibwe oral tradition. Some of the ceremonies lasted 18 hours a day for up to six weeks. By the end of those sessions, Treuer recalls that even his dreams were in Ojibwe and always in Mosay’s voice. Through the immersion experience, Treuer quickly became fluent.

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