by Amikogaabawiikwe Adrienne Benjamin Guest Writer & Photographer
During the weekend of November 3–5, seven youth from various districts — Deilyah Dexter, David Benjamin, Jenai Beaulieu, Deangelo Sam, Jazmyne Skinaway, Sophia Mushkoub, and Seth Benjamin — gathered at the Anishinaabe Izhitwaawin for an Ojibwemowin-focused camp on storytelling. The overall goal of the camp was for youth to have the opportunity to tell their own stories through various methods of their own choosing (acting, legos, pictures, etc). They then worked with the Ge-niigaanizijig language instructors to translate that story into Ojibwemowin and create a short video and/or small book together from the project.
Upon arrival, kids got settled into their bunks for the weekend and started out by playing some ice breaker games. Guesstures (an acting game) was played with Ojibwe Language Instructors Waabishkigaabaw (John P. Benjamin) and Bagwajinini (Alex Kmett) explaining the Ojibwe words for each action that was being acted out. It was a great opening night for the youth and a great way to infuse language into a fun setting.
Bright and early the next morning, the youth were broken up into two groups and paired with either Waabishkigaabaw or Bagwajinini. They were given a set of Creativity Storytelling dice, and away they went on their own storytelling and creative journeys together. (Storytelling dice have pictures of actions, things, and places that spur creativity around a table by having to incorporate whatever item shows up on the dice into the story that the group is taking turns telling together.) There were many vibrant stories coming out of this process. There was a boy who worked so hard on sewing a blanket for a ceremonial dance that he fell asleep the night of the dance and never got to give it to the apple of his eye; to a deep story about bullying that involved the bully having to experience the pain that he caused others. In the end, two completely different stories were chosen as the stories that the two groups would work on for the rest of the camp.
After the dice game, the youth were treated to a guest appearance by District II Representative, and talented theatrical mastermind, David “Niib” Aubid. Niib came and told the youth numerous stories. One in particular was about a pack of wolves that encountered someone who admired them and wanted to have all of their amazing traits. Niib had the youth wearing wolf masks and up howling along with him; he also took them on a wolf pack journey around the building in search of a nice place to take a rest. He then switched gears to a story about butterflies and helped the kids each create their own finger puppet, which he then told them he would use in his future storytelling endeavors. The youth were grateful and excited about Niib’s performance, and they couldn’t wait to share their story ideas with him as well. Niib stayed and mentored the youth on their forming stories and helped the language instructors finesse any language that he thought needed tweaking. Waabiskigaabaw and Bagwajinini took full advantage of their time with a master speaker and had plenty of sidebar conversations with him about language usage and grammar.
After dinner, the youth were treated for all of their work and were taken to the Grand Hinckley Cinema to see “Thor: Ragnarok.” After a long day of storyboard work and listening to stories, they retreated to bed.
On Sunday, scriptwriting began bright and early for the two groups. Each language instructor worked out a script with the youth and designated lines for each youth and staff to learn for the project. The kids spent the rest of the morning practicing their lines with each other and designing the sets for their stories. After a few hours, everything was ready to photograph, and the youth were confident enough to be recorded.
Waabishkigaabaw’s group came up with a story called “Booch da-bizindaman” (You Should Listen), and Bagwajinini’s group came up with a story called “Aw jejiibizhikii ge mino-mashkiki” (Healing the Ill-ephant (Elephant). All of the lines in the stories were recorded and created by the seven youth and staff in atten- dance. The stories are in the process of being edited currently by Ge-niigaanizijig staff and will be featured at public events in the communities in the near future. They are truly powerful stories that show the way that our community youth are viewing the issues that we all are facing, and the Ge-niigaanizijig staff is thrilled to have been a part of this inspiring process.
Another youth camp is scheduled for January 5–7, 2018 at the Anishinaabe Izhitwaawin. Please stay tuned to the Inaajimowin and the Mille Lacs Band Facebook page for more information as it becomes available.