Eight-year-old Nescia Giangrosso of Elginburg has won the Emerging Artist (6-9) category of the Indigenous Arts and Stories contest.
The contest is organized by Historica Canada and invites First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists aged six to 29 to interpret an aspect of their culture and heritage through literary and visual arts. Now in its 15th year, the Indigenous Arts and Stories Contest is the largest art and writing contest for Canadian Indigenous Youth. Winning contestants will receive prizes and national recognition.
Nescia was awarded a $100 cash prize for her poem The Language Nest. “I wish we could learn Ojibwe at school,” Nescia wrote in an author’s statement. “So I wrote a poem so adults can hear that this is important to me.” The poem describes her experience learning Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) at the Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest.
The Language Nest is a grassroots community organization of “language learners that are supporting each other on the journey of picking up language and learning cultural teachings,” according to Nescia’s mother Janza Ginagrosso. With the help of language speakers, the organization celebrates Indigenous languages and cultures through songs, games and special projects. The Language Nest also partners with other community groups such as Loving Spoonful and the Skeleton Park Arts Festival.
According to Janza, interested community members have the opportunity to learn Anishinaabe, Mohawk, and sometimes Cree languages at the Language Nest. Janza said that the opportunity to “reclaim a piece of that history” by learning Indigenous languages had “been a really great process for me, for my kids, for my family.”
Janza said that the impact of the Language Nest was far greater than learning vocabulary.
“It really helps kids shake their worldview and see the beauty of all the things that are around them,” Janza said. “They’ve learned that the trees and the grass and the birds are our relatives, and we have a responsibility to look after all of this stuff. So it helps change the way they walk on the earth.”
“I’ve seen that relationship grow in Nescia,” said Janza. “It’s been really beautiful.”
According to Janza, Nescia is very artistic and has a love of outdoor learning. When asked if she thought Nescia would continue to write, she said “I think so.”
The Language Nest
By Nescia Giangrosso
Once upon a time before I was eight
My mom took me on a special date
She brought me to the language nest
Man! Ojibwe is hard but I try my best
To learn our language from long ago
Because my great grandma was told no
I am glad I didn’t quit because
Now I know words like ndishnikaas
I go to school all the time
To learn French but not mine
At Language Nest we planted beans from seed
And learned that love is all they need
Really we are all the same
No matter where from you came
Just be proud where you come from
Then the world can be more fun
One day I got to make a drum
With friends from school. It was fun.
We got a ring and stretched the hides
It was tricky but I really tried
Elders teach me things they know
To learn our culture as I grow
The Language Nest is really cool,
I wish I could learn Ojibwe in school.