Research Articles

Resounding the clarion call: Indigenous language learners and documentation

  • Mary Hermes
  • Mel M. Engman


In this paper we discuss a five-year Ojibwemowin documentation and description project and illustrate how we adapted the documentation agenda in response to reclamation goals, in particular, with an eye to the needs of language learners. The science of documentation no longer stops at preservation; the groundswell of demand for respect for the intellectual and linguistic rights of Indigenous peoples must be considered. There is a call to action by and for speakers of Indigenous endangered languages, although how that action should occur is often unclear. This project offers one case to illustrate the negotiation of relationships among participants who held multiple roles (Elders/speakers, applied linguists, advanced language learners– many are tribal and community members and some work for universities) to show how consideration of Indigenous peoples’ intellectual and linguistic rights can shape a documentation project for language reclamation. We critically examine the processes and priorities of Anishinaabe language learners who have skills to document conversations and produce linguistic transcriptions. We discuss how in this process new priorities for documentation emerged, including a focus on everyday language, meaning-making, inclusive documentation norms, and collaborative analysis. This represents a traversing of discourses: our research engaged with the dominant paradigms for documentation funding...

Keywords: Indigenous languages, Indigenous knowledge, language reclamation, documentation, ethics, collaboration, endangered languages, Anishinaabe, Ojibwemowin

How to Cite:

Hermes, M. & Engman, M., (2017) “Resounding the clarion call: Indigenous language learners and documentation”, Language Documentation and Description 14, 59-87. doi:

Download PDF



Published on
30 Sep 2017
Peer Reviewed