etched in steel(e) Dr. Suzanne M. Steele — editor analyst writer researcher

MonthJune 2021

Aesthetic Translation of Indigenous Languages SSHRC Project

While 2020-21 was an enforced season of solitude for most of us, many of us carried on with our work despite all. During this time I had the great privilege of being the lead academic on a major Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded project, Li Keur Indigenous Language Database. This partnership is with the Canadian Mennonite University, a small university in Winnipeg with a stated will towards reconciliation.

Drawing on my training as an information professional (MLIS), a scholar (PhD), and working closely with a tremendous team (see article) and generous, amazing translators and elders, we were able to explore aesthetic translation of Anishinaabemowin, French-Michif, and ‘Heritage’ (‘southern’) Michif, using the text from my new major work (with composers Neil Weisensel and Alex Kusturok), Li Keur, Riel’s Heart of the North, which premieres in Winnipeg in 2022 with the Winnipeg Symphony.

This research is just the tip of the iceberg. My goal is to develop a model transferable to other aesthetic translation projects of Indigenous languages. The translators we work with have told us that working on this project has stretched their translations skills even further. All I know is that the result of this collaboration is the gift of hearing the beautiful languages of the central continent brought to their rightful place at the heart of cultural institutions and performance venues where they rightfully belong!