Ojibway youth dubs popular cartoons in Anishinaabemowin and Cree

18-year old Westin Sutherland is dubbing popular cartoons in Anishinaabemowin and Cree with the help from language speakers like Elders and teachers in Winnipeg.

'It's something that can inspire our children to continue their language learning'

Ever imagine Luna, one of the cats in the cartoon Sailor Moon, speaking with the voice of an Anishinaabe Elder?

Westin Sutherland did.

The 18-year-old Ojibway man from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba has been dubbing Anishinaabemowin and Cree over popular cartoons and sharing the work online.

After he began learning his language four years ago, Sutherland noticed that in other countries, a wide array of programs in different languages are readily available.

"They can easily take a cartoon and dub it into their own language," he said. 

"Big cultures and languages can easily find programming, books, everything in their language. For my own people, I've noticed there's really nothing and I like the sound of my language — hearing that sound, hearing it spoken in everyday life, hearing it spoken in unique situations."

Sutherland said he thought about how nice it would be to watch the shows he enjoys in his own language and decided that, since no one else seemed to be doing it, he would try his hand at dubbing cartoons in Anishinaabemowin.

Dubbing is a process that involves mixing audio into a production. Sutherland strips all of the audio out of a video then puts it back together piece by piece and inserts Anishinaabemowin or Cree audio tracks.

Language learning

The 2016 census reported there are more than 70 unique Indigenous languages being spoken in Canada and that more than 250,000 people across the country are fluent enough in an Indigenous language that they can carry on a conversation. The number of people who could speak an Indigenous language grew by three per cent since 2006. 

"I think it will help our language and help our people gain confidence in our language," said Sutherland.

18-year old Westin Sutherland is dubbing over classic cartoons with Anishinaabemowin and Cree. (Submitted by Westin Sutherland)

Since he is still learning the language himself, Sutherland gets help from teachers, Elders and other speakers in the community to help him with the dubbing to make sure the words flow and make sense. He records them voicing the characters, offering direction when a character should be conveying a certain emotion.

He has been dubbing cartoons for the last couple of years and has begun completing full episodes of shows like Sailor Moon and The Proud Family. He is currently working on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

"It's something that can inspire our children to continue their language learning and it can inspire adults to continue speaking their language," he said.

Sutherland will be attending university in the fall to study linguistics and said he would like to continue dubbing cartoons in traditional languages.

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation in South-Central Ontario. She wants to contribute to turning the page on how Indigenous peoples are covered within Canadian media.