Decolonizing botanical Anishinaabe knowledge: A Biskaabiiyang approach

Wendy Djinn Geniusz
Institute of Linguistics, University of Minnesota
July, 2006


The purpose of this research is to study the colonization of botanical anishinaabe-gikendaasowin , anishinaabe knowledge, so that it can be decolonized, reclaimed, and made useful to programs revitalizing anishinaabe language and culture. Anishinaabe, or Anishinaabeg in the plural, is the self-designation of the American Indian people who are commonly referred to in English as the Chippewa, Ojibway, Ojibwa, or Ojibwe. A fair amount of information about how the Anishinaabeg work with plants and trees has been recorded by researchers in various fields, including anthropology and ethnobotany; however, much of this information has been colonized. Through both their elicitation of this information from Anishinaabe consultants and adaptation of it to fit into the non-native knowledge keeping systems of which they were a part, researchers have created "colonized" texts of anishinaabegikendaasowin. Anishinaabe people and organizations often attempt to use these texts in their language and culture revitalization programs, but they often fall short of being adequate tools of cultural revitalization. Through Biskaabiiyang methodology, developed by Seven Generations Education Institute, in Fort Francis, Ontario, this dissertation compares colonized botanical anishinaabegikendaasowin with that of Anishinaabe elders from communities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Western Ontario, in order to explore a decolonization process which will be useful to the revitalization of anishinaabe culture and language.