Teacher Focuses on Teaching Indian Culture

Article excerpt

Byline: Ray Minor Daily Herald Staff Writer

Three years ago, Candice Morrison-Esquivel found her calling.

Passed out in a hospital bed with a severe sinus infection and cysts in her head, Morrison-Esquivel was on the verge of dying.

So close to death, she says, that she saw her grandmother and uncle, both of whom had died years earlier. She looked down and saw her body, with her parents crying by the hospital bed.

For three days, she was in a coma - dead to the world - but her hands were reaching out, trying to touch images of her grandmother and uncle.

Doctors worked on her, trying to stop the infection. Two days into the coma, her mother, a member of the Ojibwe Indian tribe, called some tribal members and asked them to dance in prayer for Morrison-Esquivel. The next day, the young Elgin mother of three boys woke up, healed.

"I know the doctors did a lot for me, but I really think it was the healing dance that saved me," Morrison-Esquivel said.

But waking up from the coma wasn't easy.

"I woke up angry because when I was in the coma I was peaceful and the pain was gone," she said. "I was with people I loved. "

Instead of staying angry, though, she realized she lived for a reason.

That reason, she says, is to carry on the traditions, stories and history of her Ojibwe tribe.

"When I came back, it was to be the next Ojibwe dancer," she said.

Today, Morrison-Esquivel, 36, is carrying on those traditions. She is one of a handful of American Indian language teachers in the country and the only teacher in Illinois teaching the Ojibwe language. She attends classes at the same school where she teaches, the Native American Educational Services College in Chicago.

She is working toward a bachelor's degree in languages and wants to become a lawyer, specializing in American Indian issues. …