Learning language through whispers: Indigenous youth launch ASMR campaign

Inspired by the concept of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), a group of Indigenous youth in Montreal are hoping to calm their peers throughout the global coronavirus pandemic with words and phrases in Indigenous languages.

It’s called Indigenous Whispers.

“I love ASMR. Everytime I watch ASMR, I feel calm and it helps me fall asleep,” said Kijâtai Veillette-Cheezo, a member of Native Montreal Youth Council, who launched the project. 

“For me, it makes me feel calm and I’m really anxious these days so I watch ASMR and I want some Indigenous representation in the ASMR community.”

Native Montreal Youth Council is comprised of 10 Indigenous youth aged 16 to 30 living in the Greater Montreal Area. Every year their mandate is to work on a project as a group that impacts and touches the lives of Indigenous youth in the city, said Meropi Deligianis, a youth intervention worker at Native Montreal.

‘We can do something together’

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic quashed the group’s original plans, they came up with the idea for the social media campaign that aims to promote relaxation, reassurance and safety by sharing the beauty and diversity of Indigenous languages through ASMR techniques. 

“It’s powwow season right now. It’s the season of gathering and seeing each other. A lot of people are missing that,” said Veillette-Cheezo.

“I see people around me feeling sad because they can’t meet other people, and I feel the same way. We wanted to find a way to reach everyone, to let everyone know that we’re not alone in this and that we can do something together.”

Veillette-Cheezo, whose family is from Lac Simon First Nation, is relearning the dialect of Anishinaabemowin used among Algonquin communities in Quebec. She used the word adjidjimoc, which means squirrel, for her submission to the project.

Youth council member Johnny Boivin had to do research into his own language — Innu-Aimun — for the project, and ended up selecting nikatshipanu to go with video him and his wife captured of a train rolling along the tracks.

“It means something that goes slowly or that advances slowly,” said Boivin. “I’m not fluent at all in Innu-Aimun and I have a lot to learn.”

Johnny Boivin is a member of Native Montreal’s youth council, along with Mailys Flamand, Kijâtai Veillette-Cheezo, Leah Condo, Janika Michel, Simon Marchand, Hunter Dewache, Christopher Gregoire-Gabriel, Amanda LaBillois and Jemmy Echaquan. (Submitted by Johnny Boivin )

Indigenous youth are encouraged to participate in campaign by posting a video of their own words or phrases to social media with #Indigenouswhispers or #Chuchoteursautochtones.

Boivin said he’s hoping to see participation outside of Quebec, and is excited to hear other Indigenous languages from across North America as well as people who are at different levels of their language reclamation journey.

“Indigenous representation is really important, and it’s such a unique project,” he said. “We might have fluent people or people who are saying a word out loud for the first time in their language. It’s going to be really nice to share this and to be able to help each other in learning.”

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