Relationality and Ojibwemowin in forest walks: learning from multimodal interaction about land and language

Mary Rose Hermes, Mel M. Engman, Meixi, James McKenzie

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Indigenous language reclamation efforts are pushing academic ideas of what language is, in order to be accountable to Indigenous epistemologies. Simultaneously, as our Indigenous languages grow, we (academics) are pushed to grow beyond the boundaries of disciplines. Categories of “language” and “land” have been segregated by this colonial structure. In this study, as we bring them together, we seek to describe what the ontology in play looks like. We argue that as reclamation efforts successfully grow more young speakers, we are able to push against colonial constructs of learning when we witness learning in the context of movement, land, and intergenerational interactions. In this article, we closely examine episodes from three walks taken from a broader corpus of walks (14), to describe how one Elder walking with groups of two children constructed knowledge and joint meaning-making in the Ojibwe language while walking on Ojibwe lands. We take seriously the idea that there is an Indigenous epistemology at work in these cultural ecologies, one that sees humans as a part of the natural world, at play on the walks. Here we describe specifically what this looks like in the moment-to-moment interactions, and how we read these constellations of cultural practices as an apprenticeship into sustaining relationships with land.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number1
Early online date03 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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