December 29, 2011

Erdrich sisters' Ojibwe-language press

Literature the Ojibwe Way: Erdrich Sisters’ Wiigwaas Press Helps Preserve Ojibwemowin

By Konnie LeMayIn 2008, Heid and Louise Erdrich, both authors and sisters from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, founded the Birchbark House Fund “to support the work of indigenous language scholars and authors,” Heid Erdrich told Indian Country Today Media Network. In 2010 the two created Wiigwaas Press to publish books solely in the Ojibwe language. Heid oversees the day-to-day operations. Wiigwaas, or birch bark, seemed an appropriate name; the durable bark once served as the medium for delivering messages.

“That was our original writing material for the sacred literature as well as the personal stories,” said Erdrich. “Birch bark was also used for messages such as, ‘We went thataways.’ It was the ‘sticky notes’ of the Ojibwe.”

The sisters first discussed a need for an Ojibwe-language press when Louise helped Mille Lacs Band elder Jim Clark write his autobiography. In 2002 she published that book, Naawigiizis, The Memories of Center of the Moon, through her Minneapolis bookstore, Birchbark Books.

“James Clark has written both in English and in Anishinaabemowin,” Heid Erdrich said. “But the language doesn’t translate precisely.”
Below:  "From left, sisters Heid, Louise and Angela Erdrich enjoy some time together. Heid and Louise are authors and have created Birchbark House Fund to support indigenous language scholars and authors and Wiigwaas Press to publish Ojibwe-language books. Dr. Angela Erdrich, a pediatrician at the Indian Health Board in Minneapolis, is on the national board of Reach Out and Read." (Marian Moore)

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