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Basil Johnston

Culture, Heritage and Spirituality (2004)

Basil Johnston is a highly respected author, storyteller and preserver of the Anishnaabe language. He has written 15 books in English and five in Ojibway, as well as numerous articles that have been published in newspapers, anthologies and periodicals. He is a strong proponent that the key to understanding culture is language and has been tireless in his efforts to promote the Anishnaabe language and culture. So tireless, that he developed audio language programs on cassette and CD and continues to teach Anishnaabe language classes to youth and adults. At a time when indigenous languages stand in jeopardy, Mr. Johnston’s meticulous work to retrieve, maintain and document the Ojibway language has helped to stem the threat of extinction. In addition to his prolific writing career, Mr. Johnston worked at the Royal Ontario Museum from 1970 to 1994 in the Department of Ethnology. He was a history teacher at a high school in North York and a lecturer at various universities and colleges, including Trent and the University of Saskatchewan. He is a renowned storyteller, possessed with the oratorical gift of the ancestors who can enthrall his audience by telling a great legend. His best known book Indian School Days utilizes humour and poignancy to provide an accounting of his experience in the residential school system. Mr. Johnston has received many awards and honours for his work, including the Order of Ontario, the 125th Anniversary Medal and honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto and Laurentian University. His books have served as ambassadors for Aboriginal people and his language tapes and CDs as tonics for the Ojibway mother tongue.