Introduction to Ojibwe Language

Paul Kane- Ojibway Encampment

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Much has been written and debated about the origin of Native Americans. Scientific anthropology insists that they must have come over a land bridge or the ice during the last ice age and that they are descendants of Asiatic forbears.

Mormons claim that they are descendants of the Lost Tribe of Joseph through one of his sons, Manasseh.

There is evidence that there was traffic and trade across the Atlantic between West Africa and South America with migrations into what is now Mexico and the southeast region of the United States. Even genetic ancestors from Europe are not yet ruled out. Other esoteric claims of alien spacecraft push credulity to the limit.

Some people, especially the Hopi, believe that they arrived through a "hole" in time. "Most Native Americans reject these saying that their ancient stories say that they originated on the American continent. 

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Ojibwe Language

Introduction to Ojibwe Language

Introduction to Ojibwe Noun and Pronoun Grammar

Introduction to Ojibwe Numbers
and Money

Introduction to Ojibwe Verbs
and Preverbs

Introduction to Ojibwe
Verb Grammar

Introduction to Ojibwe Command and Question Grammar

FREELANG OJIBWE DICTIONARY - free downloadable Ojibwe-English & English-Ojibwe dictionary form

Indian Tribes and Termination

Ojibwe Encampment on the Winnipeg River by Paul Kane

Ojibwe Art and Dance

Interpreting the Ojibwe Pictographs of North Hegman Lake, MN

Ojibwe Forestry and Resource Management

Ojibwe Homes

Ojibwe Honor Creation, the Elders and Future Generations

Ojibwe Indian Reservations and Trust Land

Ojibwe Snowshoes and the Fur Trade

Ojibwe Sovereignty and the Casinos

Ojibwe Spirituality and Kinship

Family, Community, and School Impacts on American Indian and Alaska Native Students' Success

Tracing the Path of Violence: The Boarding School Experience

Ojibwe Tobacco and Pipes

Traditional Ojibwe Entertainment

Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel - 2 - 3 - 4

Soul of the Indian: Foreword

The Great Mystery - 2
The Family Altar - 2
Ceremonial and Symbolic Worship - 2
Barbarism and the Moral Code - 2
The Unwritten Scriptures - 2

On the Borderland of Spirits - 2

Charles Alexander Eastman

Pycnogenol is a super-antioxidant sourced through Native American medicineMaritime Pine Pycnogenol  is the super-antioxidant that has been tried and tested by over 30 years of research for many acute and chronic disorders. The Ojibwe knew about it almost 500 years ago.  Didn't call it that, though. White man took credit.

Seroctin--the natural serotonin enhancer to reduce  stress and depression, and  enjoy better sleep

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Origins of Violence - 2

Recognizing a Native American Holocaust

Before Columbus

Pestilence and Genocide

Sex, Race and Holy War

The Native American Discovery of Europe before Columbus

Examining the Reputation of
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Christopher Columbus, Marrano and Mariner

Christopher Columbus Jewish and New Christian Elements

Christopher Columbus and the Indians

Columbus My Enemy

Columbus exposed as iron-fisted tyrant who tortured his slaves

Columbus Day -The white manís myth and the Redman's Holocaust

Excerpt from The Destruction of the Indies by Las Casas

How Lincoln's Army 'Liberated' the Indians

Lincoln Targeting Civilians Is a War Crime

Massacre at Sand Creek

Wounded Knee Hearing Testimony

An Ojibwe Trail of Tears

Wisconsin Trail of Tears

Canadian Genocide of Indian Children by Church and State - 2 - 3

Canadian Prime Minister Harper Apologizes for Residential School Abuse

Massacre at Sand Creek

Wounded Knee Hearing Testimony

An Ojibwe Trail of Tears

Wisconsin Trail of Tears

Winter Count: History Seen from a Native American Tradition - 2 - 3

Tracing the Path of Violence: The Boarding School Experience

The Story of the Opposition on the Road to Extinction: Protest Camp in Minneapolis

Poverty and Despair: The Failed Policies & Human Rights Violations directed against Native Americans

Larry Cloud-Morgan
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Larry Cloud-Morgan
and the Silo Pruning Hooks

Larry Cloud-Morgan: Speaking Truth to Power 

Larry Cloud-Morgan:
Testimonies to a Great Soul 

Mendota Sacred Sites - Affidavit of Larry Cloud-Morgan

Who Deems What Is Sacred?

Cloud-Morgan, Catholic activist, buried with his peace pipe

Introduction (bezhig) to Ojibwe Language

Words are tools to communication, without meaning they are useless.

With the mixing of cultures and languages in the world today, communication is becoming increasingly difficult. In his book House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday uses the feast of Santiago to parallel what has happened to language. The feast had become a mixture of Indian culture and Spanish culture. The cultures and languages had gotten mixed together and the events were strange and without meaning. The people there went ahead celebrating, not really knowing what it was that they were doing. They played games and watched the processions and cheered. The narrarator comments, "so empty of meaning it all was, and yet so full of appearance." Many words appeared to say so much, but in reality, had begun to say nothing at all.

Momaday (and I believe he speaks accurately for most of the Native American community) believes words should be used sparingly and in a way that they carry much meaning. One of Momaday's characters in his book says about his grandma, "her regard for words was always keen in proportion as she depended upon them . . . she never threw words away."

According to Momaday, the word should be sacred, a vehicle to communicating meaning and a completed action having a living impact on the listener.

Ojibwe and English

The Ojibwe language is thousands of years old and very specific in meaning. Misunderstandings in word meaning are almost impossible. Here's an example:

"Are you going to town?"

  • In English this could mean one of several things, if there is a group of people there ,it could be one person you're asking or several, or all. It could also leave the way open if you really didn't want to invite someone to leave a question in that person's mind as to whether or not they are welcome, and leaves the "asker" no way to clearify if they wanted to (aside from naming the one's he or she is asking).
  • In Ojibwe you would ask either,
    oodenaang wii-izhaayan "are you (singular) going to town?"
    or, oodenaang wii-izhaayeg "are you (all) going to town?"
    There is no way to ask genericly, and if the second form is used then everyone is invited (or you don't ask). The same is true of most things, if it is food and you don't wish to share it with everyone, or don't have enough for everyone then you don't bring it into the room.

With a combination of how the language is set up and cultural"rules" there are few misunderstandings and a person is then responsible for the actions/decisions he or she makes.

With the English language and in American culture "double meanings" are common. They are used in poetry, humor, and sarcasm (which is sometimes humor, but can also be meant as cut-downs).

General Pronunciation Chart


Vowel   English sounds

a       account
aa      ah, box
e       bait, rate
i       tin
ii      team, seem
o       oak
oo      boot

There are also nasalized vowels (like in the French and other languages), and consonant clusters. The language and the sounds are complex, to learn the language one must really learn it from a Native speaker. What is here is probably enough to give an idea how to pronounce the words in the language section.

 Greetings (niizh)

Common Greetings and phrases

aaniin ("hello")
literally means "how" or "what" (like saying,"how are you, or what's up?")
pronounced ahh ("h" is silent", like a sigh - ahh) neen

boozhoo (hello)

giga-waabamin ("see you")
literally means "I shall see you"
pronounced gi (i as in "it") guh - wahhbuhmin

maajaan(usually used when someone is leaving someone`s house)
literally means "go" in command form, but is not interpreted that way.
pronounced mahh "j" is almost like zh ( as "si" sound in Asia) ahhn

miigwech ("thanks")
literal meaning,"it is too much"
Native Americans are more likely to SHOW things such as "I'm sorry", "apology accepted" and "thank you" than to verbally say them.

Common Words

ah-ki' (the earth) understood as a female and therefore, "Mother Earth"

Gee'-sis ( sun) is called "Grandfather" therefore, "Grandfather Sun" is correct and "Father Sun" is not.

nee-ba-gee'-sis (moon) is called "Grandmother"

no-ko'-mis (grandmother)

Gi'- tchie Man-i-too' (great spirit or great mystery) understood as Creator of all that is. Creator took the four elements of Mother Earth and, using the sacred shell, blew into them the power of life. Thus, man was created, and lowered to Ah-ki' as the Original Man.

mee-ghis (sacred shell, cowrie)

nee- bing'
chi-noo-din' (wind)
ba-ba-'ma-di-zi-win' (journey)
gi-we-tash'-skad (circle)
gi-way'-din ah-nung' (North Star)
wa-bun' ah-nung' (Morning Star)
wa-ba-noong' (east)
zha-wa-noong' (south)
gee-zhi-gad-doon' (days)
we-di-gay'-win' (marriage)
ma-na'-ji-win' (respect)
o-pwa'-gun (pipe)
e-ki-na-ma'-di-win' (teachings)
Creator's garden

(fall or autumn)
ah-bwi' (paddle)
ish-skwa-day' (fire)
na-ga-moon' (song)
she-she-gwun' (rattle)
zhe-wa-ta'-gun (salt)
ni-bi' (water)
ning-ga'-be-uh-noong' (west)
gee-way-din' (north)
dee-bee-kad-doon' (nights)
za-gi'-di-win' (love)
nee-jaw-ni-sug' (children)
wa-wa-sayg' (Northern Lights)

izhichige(verb) meaning the way in which he/she does (something)
note: The Ojibwe language is an "action" language and likewise the culture is action oriented. 2/3 of the words in the language are verbs. A lot of communication is non-verbal. Words like "I love you" are seldom said, but more often shown by being there, cutting someone's wood for them, making sure they've had a good meal and a place to stay. On the flip side, words are not used loosely. When something is said it is almost as if it is contracted, it is taken as true. (unless it is in teasing, which has no relation to "mocking" - the sarcasm/double meaning and mocking type of jokes are non-existent in Native culture - if someone is teased or played a trick on, it is in acceptance and everybody laughs).

another note: no culture is without it's cruelties, a Native American person may make fun of someone by imitating the way they talk or do something.

debwe(verb) he/she tells the truth
"de" usually signifies something going on in the mind/thinking (also in "he/she understands","he/she knows", and "he/she believes").

"bwe" refers to speech (also in "he/she speaks", "he/she says so"),

"debwe" literally means something like, "to know enough about something to speak of it" (in Ojibwe culture you would not risk talking like you know something when you really don't; to be found wrong would be an embarrassment).

Body parts

o-kun-nug' (bones)
o-ste-gwan (head)
o-doon (mouth)


wee-nes-si-see (hair)



Animals (nis-wi' or o-way-se-ug')

Animals have a very important place in all Native American cultures. They are considered with respect and understood to have certain powers. They are used as symbols for various family totems (dodems) and are referred to as he/she rather than "it". Here are a few names of animals in the Ojibwe language.

The prefix "waa" refers to the up and down "bounce" or flickering of an animal or it's tail .

animal plural  english



lightning bug
some animal names sound like the sound the animal makes gookooko'oo g owl

some have evidence of beliefs in the name

manidoons g insect (manidoo means spirit)
wee-gwas' (birchbark)
o-gee-bic-coon' (roots)
ah-gi-mak'  (ash wood)
mah-nom'-in  (wild rice)
wee-goob-bee' (basswood tree)
ah-say-ma' (tobacco)
be-gew' (sap or pitch)
gi-shee-kan-dug (cedar)

Gih'ga-wa-ba-min na-gutch'! (See you later!) Includes work by Nancy Vogt first published here

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© 2007, Allen Aslan Heart / White Eagle Soaring of the Little Shell Pembina Band, a Treaty Tribe of the Ojibwe Nation.