Ojibwemowin snowballs in Bemidji


BEMIDJI, Minn. – Fifty-six businesses/organizations have committed to posting some kind of Ojibwe language (Ojibwemowin) at their worksites.

Michael Meuers and Rachelle Houle are proud to announce on behalf of the Shared Vision Group, that this includes Bemidji State University, the Vo-tech College, North Country Hospital, Bemidji Chamber, the City of Bemidji and the Bemidji Regional Events Center. This has all been accomplished in less than six weeks.

“When we started out with this we were hoping businesses would be doing Ikwewag and Ininiwag (women and men) on bathroom doors, or a greeting and thank you on front doors,” Houle said. “But some folks are getting creative about it.”

“For example, the Cabin added ‘table tents’ with Ojibwemowin, Cease funeral wanted to do some kind of blessing for those grieving ‘Apegish wii-zhawenimik Manidoo,’ (I hope you are blessed/pitied by the creator), TJ Design Studio wanted to do, ‘we fix computers (Ninanaa’itoomin mazinaabikiwebiniganan), Hazelton Family Dentistry wanted to do ‘we help people smile’ (Niwiidookawaanaanig ji-zhoomingweniwaad), Northern Dental Access Center wanted to have for their bulletin board ‘events or activities’ (waa-inakamigakin), and the Wild Hare Bistro wants a sign that says ‘meeting or conference room’ (maawanji’iding abiwin), and these are but a few examples,” Meuers said.


Alan Mershman of Kenny’s Clark Station poses with new sign.

Meuers and Houle find the effort to be exciting and fun. “We encourage folks to visit the businesses involved and tell them ‘thanks’ (miigwech),” Houle said.

Many businesses have asked Meuers and Houle how to pronounce the words businesses are using. Shared Vision hopes to bring some Ojibwe speakers together for a short workshop for that purpose. In the meantime, work site managers and owners will be sent the attachment of Ojibwemowin pronunciation courtesy of the Nichols/Nyholm dictionary.

Shared Vision is also exploring the idea of pointing out that many people see Ojibwe words around them all the time and don’t know how much the Ojibwe people and their language have affected the north woods they live in.

Words such as Bemidji itself, is a shortened version of Bemidjigamaag meaning “lake with cross waters.” But many other towns have Ojibwe names, such as Biwabik, Mahnomen, Nebish, Ogema and many others.