A graphic artist is turning his talent towards getting more people speaking the Algonquin language — using Twitter to share illustrations of simple Algonquin words.
Originally from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec, Jay Odjick is known for creating the Indigenous superhero Kagagi, which began as a graphic novel and is now a successful animated television series that airs across North America in both English and Algonquin.
Odjick also illustrated a new Robert Munsch book called Blackflies.
"On my reserve, there's not a lot of fluent [Algonquin] speakers left," Odjick said.
"I'm not an educator, I'm not a fluent speaker but I've got a pretty good handle on a lot of simple Algonquin words ... And I've got a fair amount of Twitter followers so I thought, 'I'm going to try this and keep trying things that are accessible to people'."
Algonquin A to Z
Odjick's Twitter-based Algonquin "Word of the Day" initiative involves drawing images of simple Algonquin words from A to Z.
He uses an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to create his illustrations.
"I'm three letters into it but I'm kind of stuck at the moment because I think 'X' and 'Z' are going to be kind of tough," he said with a laugh. Odjick said he doesn't know of many Algonquin words that begin with either of those letters.
While the project is still quite new, Odjick said it's already generating a fair bit of interest and has people talking about the importance of speaking Indigenous languages.
"I'm hearing from people all across Canada and even the United States saying, 'Hey, our word for bee is very similar,' and that's really awesome. I'd like to keep it going," Odjick said.
He is also considering printing the finished Algonquin alphabet as flash cards that people can use to practice the language.
Languages on social media
Odjick isn't alone in using social media to spark interest in Indigenous languages.
Trent University professor Neal McLeod recently used Facebook to crowdsource Cree words for things like Star Wars and Nirvana lyrics, resulting in the book 100 Days of Cree, which he co-authored with Arok Wolvengrey.
Jacey Firth-Hagen's language revival campaign uses Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to get people across the country speaking Gwich'in using the hashtag #SpeakGwichinToMe. That campaign was based on a similar initiative started by the Sami people in northern Europe.