Larry Martin: Ojibwe Language Hymnary Project

While I was Director of American indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire, I prepared an edition of the 100 or so Ojibwe language hymns written by Frederic Baraga, a Catholic missionary in the Lake Superior region from about 1830 until his death in 1868.  His hymnal was extremely popular among Ojibwe Catholics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I never managed too get my edition published.  However, several years ago I visited Wikwemikong on Manitoulin island, where people were still singing Baraga’s hymns. While I was there I gave a copy of a few pages from my unpublished edition to a young piano teacher whom I met there.  Somehow those pages have recently found their way to hymnary.org, which is a terrific website with all sorts of information about hymns. It covers mostly Protestant hymns, but some Catholic ones. They now have an interest in including native language hymns, and they want to put Baraga’s hymns on the website.  The hymnary folks are mainly interested in the musical notation, but they will include at least the translations I did as part of my edition.  I’m trying to persuade them to also include two other things from my edition, a conversion to modern Ojibwe orthography and some grammatical notes which would be held to people who are trying to learn the language.  I think this will be a good resource for Ojibwe Catholic communities in the U.S. and Canada, and it will be free. Perhaps it can also inspire other native communities, since there are old hymnals around from many native languages. Often they are written in an obsolete writing system, and many of the hymns express some theological ideas that are also obsolete, so work needs to be done to make them useful today, but the Baraga hymns could be inspiring throughout Catholic Indian country.   When the Baraga Ojibwe hymns are available on hymnary.org, how can we get the word out to native Catholics in general?

Lawrence T. Martin, Ph.D. (Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe) Professor Emeritus of American Indian Studies University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI  54702 MARTINLT@uwec.edu

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