BIIGTIGONG LANGUAGE PROJECT: Dave Courchene on the paramount importance of language
Phone interview (Aug. 14, 2015) – 44 min. 53 sec.
You can download the high-quality version (41.7 MB)Go directly to Biigtigong Language Project website to hear other speakers here. Known as Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man), Dave Courchene II devotes his life to seeking out and sharing the knowledge and traditions of our people. Advocating for the integration of our traditional knowledge into our lives, Dave understands the importance of reclaiming our identity and ways of being as Nishnaabe people. He exhibits a profound comprehension of our colonial history and the systematic strategies developed and implemented which were aimed at terminating our Nation. Furthermore, he eloquently connects the challenges we experience in our communities with this history. “We are witnessing an awakening amongst our people,” shares Dave. The responsibility to restore our spirit, our language, our traditions, and our Nishnaabe way of life, lies with each and every one of us. Dave advocates the absolute necessity for us to work together in the movement to restore our spiritual and cultural identity. This resurgence of our traditional ways will create a real future for our children. He expresses his belief that by recovering and returning to our true identity we will alleviate many of the problems we are experiencing. For Dave, healing historical traumas and restoring pride in our culture and in our language is fundamental to our Nation’s well-being. The loss of our language and our culture is equivalent to the loss of our spirit. Dave further advocates that without a sense of spirit and identity, we are susceptible to negative influences, such as addictions. As a first-speaker of Nishnaabemwin, Dave understands that we will lose our roadmap and the collective thought process of our people, if we let our language die. Dave expresses the paramount importance of language to our identity as a unique people. As a Nation, Dave believes we must ensure that our language remains alive so that it and we may continue to express our distinct way of life. Our language connects us to spirit, and he reminds us that spirit comes through the heart. Dave shares that language is important because it connects us to our land; language comes from our relationship with our land. Dave’s long-standing relationship with the people of Biigtigong has provided a source of inspiration and hope. His teachings provide direction and opportunities for us to re-examine our world. He poses questions and provides knowledge that challenge us to question our existence as Nishnaabeg. He continually challenges us, as individuals and as a community, to take up our responsibility to bring our children back to the center of our world. Dave’s teachings inspire us to reclaim our language, our culture, and our Nishnaabe spirit. Courtesy of Biigtigong Language Project website: http://biigtigong.com/language/about/guidance/elders/about-dave-courchene-ii/.