I'm a person who is wild about languages. I learned English first, but later I've learned a lot of Spanish, a good bit of French, and a little Italian.
I've even learned a tiny bit of Japanese.
But I have never run across any words from languages spoken by Native Americans, the first languages spoken on my continent...
Or I hadn't until I read two books this week about Native Americans, one fiction and one nonfiction. Don't let the title put you off, but Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is a fabulous nonfiction book (written by a Native American who asserts that it is perfectly fine to call Native Americans Indians) that poses and answers hundreds of good questions about Native Americans. The Firekeeper's Daughter is the story of a Native American who is asked to work as an undercover agent to help law enforcement stop a drug-running group on a reservation.
Both of these books were filled with Ojibwe words. Ojibwe is, of course, but one language of many spoken by Native Americans. As the author writes in Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: "How many tribal languages are spoken in the Americas? There were around 2,300 tribal languages spoken in North and South America before sustained contact with Europeans (500 in what’s now the United States and Canada and 300 in Mexico, with the remaining 1,500 spoken in South America). There are now around 650 total in all of the Americas (with just 150 of those spoken in the United States and Canada), and the number is shrinking quickly...There are 56 Indigenous language families in North America and over three times that number in South America. Sometimes Native American languages spoken by groups that are next to each other (like Ojibwe and Dakota) are as different as Chinese and English."
Here are some of the words I took away from these two books.
minobimaadiziwin: the good way of life—attained through love, humility, respect, honesty, bravery, wisdom, and truth.
wiijiindiwin: a word for when you no longer walk alone on your path but are together for the journey on this earth.
manaadendamowin: to act without harm.
nibwaakaawin: to be wise by living with an abundance of sight.
debwewin: to know truth.
Aren't these beautiful words? These are words I think we need in our lives today.
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.