Native Village 
Youth and Education News

October 2012

Ojibwe women singers learn from their ancestors' voices
Condensed by Native Village


Minnesota: Elizabeth Jaakola didn't hear women singing during her childhood on the Fond du Lac reservation. The Ojibwe woman said men were in charge of the songs. Women stood in the background.

Things are changing. Jaakola is the creator of Oshkii Giizhik, or New Day Singers. The ensemble of Ojibwe women singers are finding artistic success on the reservation and beyond.  They won the 2009 Native American Music Award for their first CD titled, "It Is A New Day" and are working on a second recording project.

Oshkii Giizhik's message is that women have always had leadership roles in Ojibwe culture. Now it's time to return to "that balance between a male and female," Jaakola said. "Using our voices is really important in that process."

All their songs have a story or a legend behind them, including "The Strong Woman's Song." Jaakola learned the music from an elder who said Ojibwe women in a Canadian prison sang the song to stay safe during a prison riot.


One selection, "The Anishinaabekwe Song," calls Anishinaabe women back to the circle and culture. Jaakola doesn't know the song's origins, only that it's been around for a long time.

The Oshkii Giizhik Singers rehearse every week at Fond du Lac Community College. Attendance is spotty as members balance family, jobs and transportation. About 10 members perform with the group.  More than 40 Anishinaabe women have been a part of the group at various times.

Fond du Lac band member Darcy St. John said singing has helped her kick her smoking habit.

"I can finish a whole vocable or a whole lead now, where, you know before I'd run out of breath, and then I'd complain because the song was going too fast," she said.

The Oshkii Giizhik singers have a wide range of vocal experience. Christal Moose sings in-groups and solos. She's said singing traditional tunes with other Ojibwe women fills a void.

"I love music, I sing constantly," she said. "I feel like I'm growing more and more into who I was created to be."

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Native Village Gina Boltz
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