Anishinaabemowin Language Revitalization

Wiindamaakewinan is an Anishinaabemowin term shared with us by Anishinaabe knowledge keeper and artist Saul Williams, who explains:

Weedummahgilnun [Wiindamaakewinan] translates as words to guide you in your life [...]these kind of words or teachings are usually passed from one generation to another.

Williams 2024.

This module was designed to encourage Anishinaabemowin revitalization.We have provided full transcripts of the recorded conversations between Saul Williams and Alan Corbiere in syllabics only. Summaries of the conversations are included in both English and French.

Alan Ojiig Corbiere

Alan Ojiig Corbiere, Bne doodem (Ruffed Grouse clan), is an Anishinaabe from M'Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. He was educated on the reserve and then attended the university and received his PhD from York University. He now holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous History of North America at York University where he is a faculty member. Alan is also a member of the Morrisseau Project research team.

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson was born and raised in North Caribou Lake First Nation. Primarily raised by Elders in the community she developed a lifelong passion for Anishinaabemowinn and culture, which led her to a career as an educator. She has experience teaching from kindergarten to a university level. After many years of teaching, she has obtained several positions at Keewaytinook Okimakanak as a Native Language Lead, a Manager and currently as a Vice-Principal for Keewaytinook Internet High School. She currently enjoys her role in supporting teachers, students, and building community connections. Her message to the youth is: “Do not underestimate the use of your language as it defines who you are.”


Born in 1954 at Caribou Lake, ON, Saul Williams first decided to become an artist when Norval Morrisseau came to his school and did an art workshop in 1968, when Saul was fourteen. At the end of the presentation, Morrisseau looked at Saul across the room, pointed to him and said: "You are going to be the next generation!" Saul sold his first painting shortly after that encounter and has been an artist ever since (conversation with Saul Williams, April 20, 2023).

Saul is currently an education director with the North Caribou Lake Education Authority. Working closely with parents and the community’s leadership, he continues to advocate for the inclusion of Aboriginal knowledge, language, traditions, and culture in the school’s program.

Saul Williams is an artist and Knowledge Keeper. Photographed at Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, April 2023

Saul Williams describes his painting, White Women and Their Plants, 1978, acrylic on canvas.

Saul Williams recalls stories from his life.

Saul Williams painted his homage to Norval Morrisseau for the exhibition, Norval Morrisseau and the Emergence of the Image Makers mounted at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1984. The painting was chosen as the cover of the exhibition catalogue.

Saul Williams, Homage to Norval Morrisseau, 1984.


Saul Williams discusses The Migration, 1973.

Norval Morrisseau, Migration, 1973.

Saul Williams discusses the everyday life of the Anishinaabek.

Norval Morrisseau, Indian the Keeper of His Natural Resources, 1972.

Making Baskets

Norval Morrisseau, The Basket Maker Making the Basket, 1970.

The process of making art is an expression of intergenerational knowledge transmission. In this painting, Morrisseau recognizes his Auntie from Sandy Lake, Annie Kakegamic, who made birchbark baskets.

This is a good example of how story is part of art because the basketmaker draws upon intergenerational knowledge transmission to make her baskets and Morrisseau uses his form of visual storytelling to build on that knowledge as he shares it with viewers. Saul Williams acknowledges the significance of wiigwaas baskets to communities for storage and use in the past.

Saul Williams discusses The Basket Maker Making the Basket, 1970.

Saul Williams discusses The Image Makers.

Teaching About the Owl

Saul Williams discusses Owl, 1969.

Norval Morrisseau, Owl, 1969.

Saul Williams discusses the signification of owls.

A mother's teachings

Norval Morrisseau, Thunderbird Woman, 1965.

Thunderbird Woman poster by Isaac Murdoch at the Ottawa protest on Climate Change, September 27, 2019. Photo by Carmen Robertson.


Thunderbird woman is a spiritual figure representing a sacred story of transformation and matriarchal strength. Today, the story of Thunderbird woman continues to be shared, and she remains a symbol of resistance in the form of protest art created by Anishinaabe artist Isaac Murdoch.

Saul Williams discusses Thunderbird Woman, 1965.

Saul Williams discusses Human Mother and Bear Man Offspring, c. 1970.

Norval Morrisseau, Human Mother and Bear Man Offspring, c. 1970.

Saul Williams discusses Untitled (Shaman, Phallus), c. 1973.

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Shaman, Phallus), c. 1973.

The Shaman Artist

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Shaman), 1964.

Anishinaabe artist and Knowledge Keeper Saul Williams discusses Morrisseau’s Untitled (Shaman).

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