Sudbury·LIVING LANGUAGES

Mothers explain why it's important to give their children Ojibwe names

In this episode of Living Languages, Cynthia Jourdain, Daniss Pitawanakwat and Elizabeth Eshkibok Tell Up North host Waubgeshig Rice why they gave their children Anishnaabemowin names.

Reclaiming traditional names forces people to speak Anishinaabemowin, says Elizabeth Eshkibok

Daniss Pitawanakwat, from Wasauksing First Nation, says it was important to name her children Anishinaabemowin names: Nam'aawin, which means Prayer, Miinaande, which means Blue and Miingozwin, which means Gift. (Submitted by Daniss Mitawanakwat)

Naming a child in an Indigenous language is about culture, history, family, community and reclaiming language.

Cynthia Jourdain lives in Kenora with her daughter, whose Anishinaabemowin name Nagweyaab, means Rainbow. She named her that because she saw a perfect rainbow the day she found out she was pregnant. Jourdain says her daughter is very proud of having an Anishinaabemowin name.

"There's a few ways to say it but I went with the way the Minnesota-Ontario dialect says it because that's where I grew up and I wanted to honour my father's dialect, which is from Couchiching," said Jourdain.

Daniss Pitawanakwat is from Wasauksing First Nation. Her three children have Anishinaabemowin names: Miingozwin, which translates into Gift, Miinaande, which translates into Blue and Nam'aawin, which means Prayer.

"When I was really young, it was told to me numerous times that it was important to have a name that was Ojibwe because when your time in this world is over the Creator is going to call you back by your Ojibwe name," said Pitawanakwat.

"I know that there are frustrating times when there's mispronunciation or difficulty teaching other peers how to say their names but they like their names and they also like the attention when introducing themselves to someone who does speak the language fluently," she added.

Daniss Pitawanakwat is from Wasauksing First Nation. (Submitted by Daniss Pitawanakwat)

Elizabeth Eshkibok is from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. Her two children have Anishnaabe names for Booming Cloud and New Sacred Beginning.

Eshkibok and her partner agreed that they didn't want general English first names for their children and they also talked about three people who have been their role models and mentors.

"It wasn't until our teenage years that we actually knew they had English names . . . so our conversation was why don't we name our children with their Anishnaabe names, their spirit names that we use in ceremony, and what if that's what we write on their birth certificates," she said.

"Our hope is that our language is normalized and accepted and that this is just a part of who we all are," said Eshkibok.

"It also forces others to speak our language by having to learn our children's names and it opens the door to begin educating them about us," she added.

"In reclaiming our language and reclaiming our traditional names, this is what we look like and this is what we sound like."

With files from Waubgeshig Rice

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