For the Kabatay
sisters, hearing the Anishinaabemowin language while growing up
was ordinary. It was commonly spoken by their grandparents, parents
and aunties and uncles.
sisters revive their Anishinabe language
The Kabatay family is Shelly, Sherri, Shannon and Tracy — four
siblings who come from the Seine River First Nation in northwestern
Sherri remembered the stories being told in their home.
"My grandpas, they were great storytellers and they would just
tell the story and you would be just waiting for the end. They would
always sound so serious, but then they were actually funny stories,"
Sherri Kabatay said.
Things changed drastically when the sisters attended a primarily
non-Indigenous elementary school in a small Ontario town called
"It almost felt like was still a residential school because
those are the same teachers that moved to our school because I can
remember them being mean to you," Shelly recalled.
"It was almost like you got in trouble if you said something
in your language."
Sherri, Shannon and Tracy Kabatay - four siblings who come
from the Seine River First Nation in northwestern Ontario.
But the opportunity to revive that language took place in 2013
when the sisters enrolled in a two-year Anishinaabemowin immersion
program at the Seven Generations Institute, an Indigenous-operated
post-secondary institution in Fort Frances.
Each of the siblings had their own reason for enrolling.
"My main reason I wanted to take it was when I was in ceremony,
like in sweat or whatever I can say my prayers in the language whether
it is within me talking to Creator or to the spirits, or the grandfathers
and grandmothers. I am able to do in the language," said Shannon.
As for Tracy Kabatay, a serious car crash and a personal experience
with the Creator led her to take the course.
"When I got into my accident, I actually died and I was
trying to go home but Creator did not want me to go home,"
And, because of that experience, Tracy said it strengthened
her connection to creation and what her responsibilities are.
Tracy believes that when her time comes to to the spirit world,
she'll be met by a guide.
She wants to speak to that guide in her own language.
Completing the program in 2015, the Katabay sisters now try
to speak the language as much as possible.
It doesn't come without its challenges, however. For instance,
Sherri lives in Fort Frances, a small Ontario town where she feels
she is not surrounded by a large number of fluent speakers.
Still, Shelly said the important thing is that the four sisters
are learning Anishinaabemowin, together.