New Fletcher Paper: “The Rise and Fall of the Ogemakaan”

Please check out my new paper, “The Rise and Fall of the Ogemakaan,” now available on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Anishinaabe (Odawa, Bodewadmi, and Ojibwe) legal and political philosophy is buried under the infrastructure of modern self-determination law and policy. Modern Anishinaabe tribes are rough copies of American governments. The Anishinaabeg (people) usually choose their ogemaag (leaders) through an at-large election process that infects tribal politics with individualized self-interest. Those elected leaders, what I call ogemaakaan (artificial leaders) preside over modern governments that encourage hierarchy, political opportunism, and tyranny of the majority. While modern tribal governments are extraordinary successes compared to the era of total federal control, a significant number of tribes face intractable political disputes that can traced to the philosophical disconnect from culture and tradition.

Anishinaabe philosophy prioritizes ogemaag who are deferential and serve as leaders only for limited purposes and times. Ogemaag are true representatives who act only when and how instructed to do so by their constituents. Their decisions are rooted in cultural and traditional philosophies, including for example Mino-Bimaadiziwin (the act of living a good life), Inawendewin (relational accountability), Niizhwaaswii Mishomis/Nokomis Kinoomaagewinawaan (the Seven Gifts the Grandfathers or Grandmothers), and the Dodemaag (clans). I offer suggestions on how modern tribal government structures can be lightly modified to restore much of this philosophy.

MSUTODAY: “MSU Receives $2.5M for Less Commonly Taught Languages”


“For hundreds of years, generations of Indigenous people in communities throughout the Great Lakes have fought for the preservation of Anishinaabemowin,” said Gordon Henry, professor of English and co-PI on the project who is affiliated with the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program at MSU and an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota. “It’s important for people in knowing their culture to try to live their language, to have it as a living way of communicating in a community, and that’s what a lot of tribes are trying to have happen again.” Read more.

Michigan Public Radio on Anishinaabemowin and the Boarding Schools


Deleta Gasco Smith works for the Little Traverse Bay Band. She attended Holy Childhood for three years of elementary school.

“When we were in the school we were actually completely forbidden to speak the language, and if we were caught, the punishment was swift and it was severe,” Gasco Smith says.

Gasco Smith’s father was fluent in Anishinaabemowin, but he was careful not to teach his daughter the language. Gasco Smith says her Dad went to the same boarding school and knew she would be beaten for speaking Anishinaabemowin.


NPR Segment Profiles

NPR has “For Rare Languages, Social Media Provide New Hope” here.

An excerpt:

The creators and contributors of — a website that seeks to preserve Anishinaabemowin, an endangered Native American language from Michigan — use Facebook in a similar manner. contributor Margaret Noodin is an assistant professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The language has 8,000-10,000 speakers, she says. But most of the native speakers are over 70 years old, placing the language under threat.

“That’s the most dangerous thing. There are very few young kids that are growing up in a fluent environment,” Noodin says.

Chicago Law School on Law School Grades: More Pie

Thank you University of Chicago Law School!

If you are thrilled with your grades, congratulations. Go home, pat yourself on the back, and remember that law school is like a pie eating contest. Only the prize for getting great grades is the same as the prize for getting lower grades: more pie.


Also, “pie is what I ate” in Anishinaabemowin…..

New Book: Anishinaabemowin Maajaamigad (The Anishinaabe Language Leaves)

Anishinaabemowin Maajaamigad (The Anishinaabe Language Leaves)

A community welcomes its veterans home from World War II and they work together to build something for the future generations and to remember the past. Authors Howard Kimewon and Margaret Noori share this story of Manitoulin Island, “the place of the spirits.” Set in 1940s, this true story of survivors of war honoring those who will never return by building an ice arena is told in both Anishinaabemowin and English.

The book contains a three-line version of the story so that readers will see and learn the meaning of each word in the Anishinaabe order. The top line is exactly as it was spoken by fluent speaker, Howard Kimewon. The second line is a direct translation of the meaning contained in the words and sometimes parts of words. The third line is the same meaning as it would be spoken by someone fluent in English. There is often a difference between the literal and literary English and clearly seeing that difference can help students understand how to think and speak in Anishinaabemowin.

For Kimewon, a teacher and author who grew up in the Murray Hill area of Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve and heard these stories passed down from generations, this is an opportunity to share both his language and his history. As a boy he skated at this rink and heard the story of how it came to be. As he told this story it was carefully transcribed and edited by Noori.

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Fluent Anishinaabemowin Teacher for Sutton’s Bay Schools in Leelanau County

Wanted:  Fluent Anishinaabemowin Teacher for Suttons Bay Public Schools and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.  Teacher will be employed half time by Suttons Bay public Schools to instruct a Level 1 class at the high school level, a beginning class at the middle school level, as well as some foundation language experiences at the elementary level.

The ideal candidate will help develop the high school curriculum, which will grow in the following year into a two-year course sequence. The applicant must be a first speaker of the Odawa or Ojibwe dialects of Anishinaabemowin.  The applicant must write in the double vowel system and speak the dialect of Manitoulin Island or the North Shore of Ontario.  The applicant should have training in the Total Physical Response methodology of teaching the language, and should have a minimum of three years experience teaching Anishinaabemowin.  The teacher must know the cultural aspects of the language and the worldview inherent in Anishinaabemowin.

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University of Michigan Anishinaabemowin Classes Profiled

In USA Today:

DETROIT (AP) — The statistics might not be promising, but personal experience offers Brooke Simon hope that her ancestors’ language won’t disappear.

Lecturer Margaret Noori leads a weekly Ojibwe language study group at the University of Michigan, Thursday, April 3, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“I can walk down the street and hear someone yell ‘aanii!’ from across the street,” said the 20-year-old University of Michigan student, referring to a greeting in Ojibwe, or Anishinaabemowin. “Students aren’t afraid to use the language and learn about this language.”

Simon participates in the Ann Arbor university’s Program in Ojibwe Language and Literature, one of the largest of its kind in the nation. It seeks to teach and preserve the American Indian language spoken by about 10,000 in more than 200 communities across the Great Lakes region — but 80% of them are older than 60.

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