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Importance of Celebrating Anishnaabemowin Focal Point of New Book and Film Launched at Trent University

Press Release

March 21, 2019

Elder Shirley Williams and Sacha Trudeau’s latest projects emphasize importance of protecting Indigenous language

Indigenous languages in Canada have been under threat for a long time. Elder Dr. Shirley Williams and Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau are working to encourage Anishnaabemowin use, through their latest projects, both being launched at Trent University on Friday, March 22, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wenjack Theatre, Otonabee College.

Dr. Williams’ newest book, Shoolee: The Early Years and Mr. Trudeau’s short film, Wiisgaapte (Bitter Smoke), both feature a strong focus on Anishnaabemowin.

“The disappearance of Canadian Indigenous languages is a tragedy for all Canadians and I believe that non-Indigenous Canadians can play a role in helping to keep them alive and well,” said Mr. Trudeau, writer and director of Wiisgaapte (Bitter Smoke). “Through languages, we encounter different worldviews, which is why I was so excited to explore the Ojibwe universe in this film.”

Dr. Williams’ latest book is the first in an autobiographical trilogy. Shoolee: The Early Years tells about her childhood in Wikwemikong First Nation, how she learned from her parents about the land, plants water and animals, before being taken away and sent to St. Joseph’s residential school. In her quest to contribute to the survival of the language, this book has been written in both Anishnaabemowin and English.

A fluent speaker, Dr. Williams has worked tirelessly in teaching the language. She is credited with developing the double vowel orthography, an important tool assisting those who want to learn the language and supporting its implementation and use throughout the Anishnaabeg territories. She is a professor emeritus in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University.

“Storytelling is an important part of our culture, and my book continues that way of teaching by telling stories of my childhood,” said Dr. Williams. “It is a large undertaking to record and teach our language so others can speak and keep it alive.”

Mr. Trudeau’s film Wiisgaapte (Bitter Smoke), reaches out to the Windigo legend of Anishnaabe lore. Dr. Williams worked closely with Mr. Trudeau to bring the dialogue into Fur Trade Era Anishnaabemowin and to coach the actors on proper pronunciation. The Windigo legends describe a terrible monster, born out of starvation in winter and craving human flesh.

Filmmaker, journalist, scholar, author, Mr. Trudeau has told compelling and provocative stories about our complicated world in film, in lectures and in print for over two decades. Wiisgaapte (Bitter Smoke) is his first foray into fiction film.

“According to writer and language keeper Basil Johnston, the Windigo stories are cautionary tales, meant to warn people against greed and remind them of their responsibilities to each other for survival,” adds Mr. Trudeau. “I think this old message is still important.”

The event, which is part of the 50th anniversary of Indigenous Studies at Trent University, is free to attend. Following the screening of Wiisgaapte (Bitter Smoke), and a presentation from Dr. Williams, a Q&A conversation and Water Ceremony will take place. Copies of Shoolee: The Early Years will be available for purchase following the event.

About Trent University
One of Canada’s top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that’s personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent’s unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent’s students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent’s Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.

Media Interview Opportunities:
Dr. Shirley Williams and Sacha Trudeau are both available for media interviews on Friday, March 22, 2019 between 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., prior to the launch event.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Kathryn Verhulst-Rogers, manager, Communications, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x6182 or [email protected]

If you no longer wish to receive news releases and advisories from Trent University, please email [email protected] to unsubscribe. Accessible versions of this document are available upon request at


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