Research and Collaborations

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A Living Language Resource: The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

The Ojibwe People's Dictionary is a searchable, talking Ojibwe-English dictionary that features the voices of Ojibwe speakers. It is also a gateway into the Ojibwe collections at the Minnesota Historical Society. The purpose of the Dictionary is to support language education and encourage new speakers among the present generation. 

The Dictionary was established by faculty and students in the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. For years, Professor John Nichols digitally recorded Ojibwe elders as part of a research grant for the National Science Foundation’s Endangered Languages Program. His goal was to expand A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe, which he co-authored with Professor Earl Nyholm at Bemidji State University.

In time, Nichols anticipated the need for a talking dictionary where digital audio would be embedded within the dictionary entry. Nichols and his departmental colleague, historian Brenda Child, along with curator Marcia Anderson from the Minnesota History Society, began to envision a new dictionary with a broader Ojibwe cultural context.

This dictionary would draw on the superb collections of the Minnesota Historical Society to create a virtual museum. As a result, instead of the simple line drawings typical of a print dictionary, the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary features beautiful illustrations of Ojibwe material culture and activities, to narrate the rich cultural heritage and present-day lives of Ojibwe people from the Great Lakes.


The Department of American Indian Studies nurtures many partnerships, and we continue to work with various agencies in the Cities that serve indigenous populations. Our partnerships include the: