Land as Interlocutor: A Study of Ojibwe Learner Language in Interaction on and With Naturally Occurring ‘Materials’

Mel M. Engman, Mary Hermes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Ecological approaches to language learning and materials use represent educational settings as complex and dynamic systems by applying relational perspectives from the natural world in the classroom. For young bilingual Ojibwe learners, the natural world (i.e., local, rural, and reservation land) is a significant language learning resource unto itself. In the underrepresented context of Indigenous language reclamation in the Upper Midwest of the United States, local land is central to ways of knowing and being, thus it is also central to learning. This study examines the ‘intra-actions’ among land-based materials, an Ojibwe Elder, and immersion school youth on local forestland. Focusing on the interrelated nature of human and nonhuman elements, we rely on Indigenous perspectives of relationality and sociomateriality to expand and clarify the roles of land in Indigenous language learning for reclamation. This study highlights Ojibwe practices of relational consensual engagement with the environment and has implications for materials use research, as it underscores the significance of the natural world as emergent language learning and teaching materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-105
Number of pages20
JournalModern Language Journal
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project was funded by the National Science Foundation (grant no. 1664510).

Publisher Copyright:
© National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations


  • Indigenous language reclamation
  • land-based pedagogy
  • sociomateriality


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