Cyndi Bergloff

Cyndi Bergloff studied linguistics at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Her focus was on literacy in underserved communities, such as the Native/ Indigenous American community. Her educational journey was not easy growing up as a person living in two cultures and much of her primary and secondary education was spent moving between homes and schools. After transferring between three schools in higher education, she found herself at home at University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.  After introspection, Cyndi found that her success and grades were because of the American Indian Student Services at UWM. The advisors were not only catering to her needs as a student, but to her needs as a Native American person. After finding that her college education was not challenging her in the ways she needed it to, Cyndi decided to take two gap years away from college to do service within the community through AmeriCorps. Cyndi spent the school year in 2014-2015 serving with City Year Seattle, and school year 2015-2016 with Playworks Wisconsin. Through her two years of service and her experiences from higher education, Cyndi learned about the importance of educating and serving the whole person. Her passions lie in social-emotional learning, literacy, and equity in the educational systems and one day hopes to create a support and mentorship system for students within her communities.


    Issues Areas:
  • Native/Indigenous In Empowerment, Cultural Preservation, & Tribal Sovereignty

Campus: University of Wisconsin Milwaukee- Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fellowship Class Year: 2016

Blueprint: Indigenous issues with a an Indigenous perspective

As Cyndi began learning her Indigenous Language, Anishinaabemowin, she noticed the lack of resources for her to learn the language in everyday settings. As she began communicating with other Indigenous folks in her community, she heard continually that the reason Anishinaabemowin learners were losing their ability to understand their language was the few opportunities there were to use the language. In addition, as Tribal Nations began to make the news, Cyndi noticed the lack of accurate portrayals of Indigenous communities. To address these two main issues, Cyndi is creating a social media outlet that will focus on Indigenous issues with a an Indigenous perspective. The big idea - connecting Native youth to the outside world and their communities with a focus on sharing, revitalizing, and showcasing their languages, cultures and accomplishments to the world.  By using social media tools like Youtube and Facebook,  our channels will help with teachers who are looking for more content to add to their classroom curriculum for language learning and to meet the Wisconsin Act 31. Ideally, this would be a place for those in the Indigenous community to have their voices heard. The reason for having multiple social media outlets (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for one campaign is to show the emphasis on the value of oral tradition, to showcase what art looks like, to highlight community news  and showcase the beauty of native languages in America today.

Cyndi Bergloff's Blog Posts

Endaso giizhigad Ningaagiigido Anishinaabemowin

Aaniin. Cyndi nindizhinikaaz. Ninonjiba Chigagou, nindadaa Wauwatosa Wiskonsin. Nindoodem animikii gaye miskawaadesi. Nind Anishinaabekwe.

Hello, I am called Cyndi. I am from Chicago and currently live in Wauwatosa,Wisconsin. I belong (have responsibility) to the Thunderbird and the Turtle clans. I am an Anishinaabe (Ottawa) woman.

In October my school – The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee- hosted the 48th annual Algonquian Linguistics Conference, in which I had the opportunity to attend.

As an Indigenous person, growing up, I have felt invalid due to the erasure of my people’s history in  my education and in other forms as well.  So much so, that I never even knew that a conference that focused on Indigenous languages existed. This was an eye opening experience for me. Not only did I learn more about language revitalization efforts beyond just the well-known tribes but I also learned that experts don’t have to be in a suit and tie, they can be everyday teachers in classrooms.

The conference I attended focused on Algonquian Languages, with a secondary focus on culture. There are over 20 languages that fall under Alqonquian/ Algonkin family including: Anishinaabemowin, Miami, Michif, Cree, and Innu.  These languages are primarily spoken in Great Lakes region within the United States and Canada. Currently, there are 14 active dictionaries of these languages that are being created and added to by linguists, indigenous community members and elders.

Anishinaabemowin ( Ah-nish-in-aah-bay-mow-win) mainly represents three languages, Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi. Although it is not language spoken by most, there are as many as 50,000 people who speak Anishinaabemowin making it  known as an endangered language.

Every half hour to hour, there was a new selection from three sessions. The sessions ranged from technical linguistic analysis of a piece of language to a lacrosse tutorial to taking new approaches to health in the Anishinaabe community.  It was obvious that everyone in attendance was well versed in the community and at least one of the languages.

Early on,  I hopped on over to a session on the language revitalization of Menominee. There, I found heaven. I had joined that session halfway through the presentation. When I had walked in the presenters were speaking of the structure of the program, and how they were currently in the process of training and selecting teachers to begin teaching at the local tribal school. The Menominee teacher spoke of the importance of language survival because there was a period when Menominee was only “whispered in quiet tones for a long time.” When he said this, it spoke to my core, my being.

A quick sidebar to the significance of this statement: historically, Native people were required to assimilate to American culture through the forcible removal of children from homes and placement in boarding schools.  Student’s traditional hair was cut off, they were given “white” names and were forbidden to speak their language. The most common phrase used to describe this process of assimilation came from Richard Henry Pratt, founder of Carlisle School, who stated “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

The further I got into this conference; I saw the passion of youth wanting to honor their families. Many ancestors worked so hard, and risked their lives in these boarding school settings to keep their language. Throughout this conference, I saw panels and presentations on revitalization and preservation of the Ojibwe language / Anishinaabemowin through the Waadookodading School, of the Miami language through the Myaamia Center.

It became evident to me throughout this conference that historically, non-native folks used to dominate the linguistic field that studied Indigenous languages (and when they did these studies, often did it for their own benefit and not the benefit of the community they were studying). There was a shift that I noticed that I was in the middle of though, groups of Native Folks wanted to take back their languages and Linguists wanted to support this in any way they could. When communities of color return to their traditions and languages, it is seen as an act of resistance. Straying from the colonial institutions can be viewed as a threat to people in power.

This conference was wholly affirming of my Anishinaabe identity. I entered this conference intimidated by the experience and research of these top tier linguists. As I sat in on these sessions, I began to find that the many people who were speaking up and presenting were everyday young people like myself, no older than 35. They were Indigenous folks who grew up by the drums singing old songs that they never understood the words to. Their fire was lit when they learned the language and began to understand the meaning of those songs and their relevance in the world. They spoke of the importance of saving our culture by using the language everyday however we can, through songs, poetry, texting your family, in celebrations and in mourning. They reminded us that we need to teach the youth do they can live by the gifts of the seven grandfathers.

As I walk away from this, I realized that the career I wanted to pursue was not where my heart lies. This conference has shown me that I want to carry on the teaching of Anishinaabemowin from my elders. I want to join my community in this fight to strengthen ourselves, to show our resilience. We need to show that despite the efforts of colonization and forced assimilation, that we still found a way to save our culture. We need to continue to speak these languages with every breath into every space. By doing this, we breathe life back into our ancestors.

And since every Anishinaabe story could drag on and on, this is only appropriate:

Nahow. Mi’iw. Gimigwetchin.

Okay then, that’s it. Thank you.

Take Back the Conversation: Indigenous Women & Domestic Violence

Content warning: Domestic Violence, Sexual violence

When considering possible options for this month’s blog post, I struggled with finding ideas. I wondered how I would begin. Do I want to start broad? Or talk about something specific?

While scrolling through Facebook, I saw a status from a near friend of mine, who shared her personal story of domestic violence recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness month. I was inspired by her story and her passion to prevent this from happening to others.

Her story made me realize that this was a subject that I also wanted to shed light on.  During my childhood,  I saw domestic violence tear my family apart and really affected me in my younger years.

I come from a mixed race family, with my father being white and my mother being Native, from the Grand Traverse Band Ottawa Nation. I have lived most of my life in Chicago and Milwaukee, spending much of my time in the Indigenous community.

In the recent incidents of missing Indigenous women in Canada, I began to research more information about the violence against women in Indigenous communities.  The information that I  found was appalling.

Violence against Indigenous women is not an event that is isolated in just Canada. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Below is the information I found in regards to domestic violence in Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.



(Photo Cred: YWCA)

Okay so what is happening?

According to the National Congress of American Indians  thirty percent of Native women in the United States will be raped in their lifetime, forty percent will experience domestic violence and are murdered at a rate of ten times the national average.

Now while these statistics are high, study done by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shows that Indigenous women, though they make up only 4.6% of the Canadian female population, represent over 16% of murdered women and 11.3% of the missing women from 1980-2012.

These two studies show that Indigenous women in North America face alarmingly high rates of violence and show while the population of Native women is low in the population; the numbers of Indigenous women who face violence are disproportionately higher in than these other populations.


What does this all mean? Why is this happening?

Specifically in the United States, seventy percent of the violence Indigenous women face is actually done by non-native people. There are studies that show that gender based violence in the Native community go as far back as the Trail of Tears*. A study done by Amenesty USA, says that Native communities prior to colonization, severely punished anyone who caused any sort of violence against the women in their community.

With this historical oppression lens, we can look through the possible contributions to this event. To begin, there is an over sexualization of Native women, specifically within Hollywood and college campuses. Examples of this include the use of Native Headresses in a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and the over 1000 images on Pinterest to create a “sexy indian.” This often will lead to the idea that Native women are an exotic commodity.

In addition, in both Canada and the United States there is a large amount of women who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. While large amounts of data have yet to be compiled regionally, several individual cities do have human trafficking statistic. Within Vancouver British Columbia, Native women in 2006-2008 made up forty eight percent of the sex trade. Even more heartbreaking is nearly seventy five percent of juvenile trafficking cases in Minneapolis Minnesota were Native girls, even though Native people only make up two percent of the population. Many women are manipulated to remain in these trafficking situations for sources of stability including: safety of their family, access to drugs/ alcohol or a place to stay.

What is being done?

This is a very complex issue within the United States because of the court systems related to these matters. When a Native woman reports a domestic violence situation to law enforcement, the preceding actions depend on a number of variables including: where the actions took place, are the victims Native or non-native, and are the perpetrators Native or non-Native? The answers to these questions would decide if local law enforcement, tribal law enforcement or the Federal Bureau of Investigation are involved. To make things more complicated, in a 1978 decision called Oliphant v. Suquamish, it was decided that tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Natives. In the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a tribal court may override Oliphant v. Suquamish to sue a non-Native person in the instance of domestic violence.

Currently, Canada is running an inquiry into the violence against Indigenous women. Many of the people who are on the committee are people from Canada’s Indigenous communities. While not every community is represented, the goal is for the greater good. The inquiry is aiming to find root causes for the missing and murdered Indigenous women. They will do this by looking at the systemic factors that may lead to these incidences, while also considering the role of institutions brought by colonialism, including police and child welfare.


What can be done?

First, take the time to understand why culturally competent education about Native People is important. There are several resources including the new Native Lives Matter curriculum which was created by People of Color online classroom.

Do not be afraid to call people in when they are continuing to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Native people. We need the community to know that Native people are still present, and are facing these issues. Those who perpetuate these negative stereotypes may not understand the long term effects of their actions. It can be exhausting, and often traumatic  for people from the Indigenous communities to continue to educate others. When our brothers and sisters support us in solidarity by educating others, these communities can focus on these issues.

Know where there are local resources for Native people who may need help. Take some time, research those offices and hotlines and save that information on your phone. You never know when someone might need it. Resources will vary from place to place.

Most importantly, remember silence is violence. Please, if you see something, say something.


National Domestic Violence Hotline (US): 800-799-SAFE (7233)


*The Trail of Tears is the given name of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which took several Native tribes from the East and South and forcibly removed and displaced them in Oklahoma. The result was over 4000 deaths of Indigenous people.