One of the world’s oldest languages teaches hidden life lessons

If, a few millennia ago, you had been hunting a woolly mammoth, you would have discussed your plan of attack in a version of a language that is still alive today—though just barely. Ojibwe language expert James Vukelich (Kaagegaabaw) visited Stillwater Public Library in January to share some of that language with attendees of the Native American Parent Advisory Committee’s latest education session.

Vukelich, who works as an indigenous language specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools, has spent years working to record and preserve the ancient Ojibwe language, which has been passed through generations of indigenous North American people since the Ice Age. Instilled in that language are the basic teachings of the Ojibwe philosophy and way of life. This concept is also known as “The Seven Generations.”

The Seven Generations is a belief held by not only Ojibwe people, but a number of indigenous tribes. Vukelich said that the Ojibwe language is as different from Dakota as German is from Chinese, yet this concept of seven generations is shared across those tribal differences. It teaches that every action a person takes will have an impact on the next seven generations that follow.

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