People of Georgian: Indigenous Elder finds purpose in language
May 29, 2020

Welcome to the second in our new series, People of Georgian. Now more than ever, let’s share our stories and stay connected.

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People of Georgian: Meet Ernestine Baldwin

Happiness is…

I’m a great-great-grandmother. I love my children, all of them. When I had my grandchildren I loved them. When I had my great-grandchildren I loved them the same way I love my children. And then I have my little great-great-grandson, and I get to hold him and I get to look at him. I look at him and I wonder, “Will I be able to see how he grows up?” Now I can just give him all of that love that I feel. I know what love is and that’s happiness for me. I just love having him.

You know when you’re young, you’re afraid to get old. Everybody tries to stay young as long as they can. What they don’t realize is once they become a grandmother, grandfather, elder, who knows, senior citizen… that it’s a really wonderful place. It’s nothing to be afraid of. That’s another thing that I found out. To be grateful for everything that you have is a wonderful thing because the more grateful you are and the more thankful you are, the more you’re given.

A hand holds a pen and writes words on a notepad.
Person sits on a couch and smiles at the camera.

The importance of language

Language is very spiritual. I didn’t realize that at first, but as I’m getting older I’m starting to realize how important passing on the language is to our young people because that’s where they find out their spirituality, their purpose for being here on the Earth. Sometimes I think without our language, we’re not a nation. You can say you’re Ojibway, but … the language makes you who you are. I didn’t teach it to my children because we were taught that language was not important and we needed to speak English in order to have a successful life. You can have a successful life, but if you don’t have a spiritual life to go with it, it’s not good.

I love teaching it, I love to hear it. Old words sometimes come back to me in my sleep. I just think about it almost all the time. It’s in there.

With language you can see the world in a whole different way. Our word for Earth is aki, and then our word for teaching is akinoomaagewin, so it’s teaching from the Earth. Our medicines are mashkiki – strong medicine that comes from the Earth. So it’s all connected. Sometimes the words have feelings in them so you don’t need a whole sentence to express something. It’s all in that word.

Ernestine Baldwin, Visiting Elder, Georgian College Indigenous Resource Centres