John Paul Montano
Language and Mythology Consultant
John Paul Montano is a second-language speaker of Nishnaabemwin. He acquired Nishnaabemwin as an adult outside the traditional arena of the home. He has made his acquisition of Nishnaabemwin his top priority over the past 16 years, committing to the 12,000 hours necessary to obtain high proficiency.
John Paul acquired Nishnaabemwin from a respected Elder, Barbara Nolan, who wholeheartedly embraces the immersion-based transfer of language. Barbara, who survived the attempts of cultural genocide by Canada’s residential schools system, has been and remains unwaveringly committed to continue passing-on her language, in her efforts to help ensure the revitalization of Nishnaabemwin.
John Paul is forever grateful to his mentor, Barbara, with whom he seriously explored the question, “Why have there been only a few new speakers created in Nishnaabe country, outside of the home environment?” In examining this question, John Paul and Barbara acknowledged that our language keepers did not know how to transfer the language. Using second-language acquisition theory and immersion research, John Paul and Barbara successfully accomplished their goal of creating a speaker of Nishnaabemwin.
John Paul has researched, designed, and delivered immersion instructor training programs for first-speakers. Based on results-oriented research, as well as personal successes and failures, John Paul and his mentor spent many years teaching first-speakers how to create speakers. Their training has produced immersion instructors throughout Turtle Island who are now also on the journey to creating speakers.
John Paul has studied linguistics and has a solid understanding of the structure and grammar of Nishnaabemwin. Utilizing this knowledge, he has been over the years working on the reconstruction of his Potawatomi dialect of Nishnaabemwin. John Paul has dedicated the last 19 years of his life to the study of Nishnaabemwin, second-language acquisition, indigenous language revitalization, immersion education, and to becoming a speaker of Nishnaabemwin. Currently, he is doing graduate studies in data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence at Harvard University’s Extension School. He brings this vast array of skills to the language reconstruction and revitalization work here in Biigtigong.
As a speaker of Nishnaabemwin, John Paul experiences a different world today than when he was unable to understand or speak Nishnaabemwin. He is able to articulate the differences in a world viewed through English versus a world viewed through Nishnaabemwin. After years of hard work and commitment, John Paul is able to understand and experience our Nishnaabe worldview; a worldview which is embedded in our language and is available to each and every one of us to experience, as well. This profound change in his being, coupled with his commitment to his mentor, are what provide him the motivation to continue working toward ensuring that Nishnaabemwin is transferred to the next generations of our people.
Working with Biigtigong’s elders, John Paul has successfully reconstructed and documented Biigtigong’s dialect of Nishnaabemwin. With this, we can now move forward in the creation of immersion-based material in Biigtigong’s dialect, which will ultimately be able to create speakers of our Biigtigong dialect of Nishnaabemwin. Our language has hope and a fighting chance to be once again heard in our homes and throughout our community.
More about John Paul Montano: