January 31, 2007

Decolonizing Bolivia through language

In Bolivia, Speaking Up For Native Languages

Government Push Is Plagued by ControversyThe Bolivian government estimates that 37 percent of the population speaks a native language that predates the arrival of Spanish colonists in the 16th century. Officials hope that language-training programs in public schools and government offices will raise that percentage--but not just for the sake of scholarship. In the words of an Education Ministry informational pamphlet distributed in La Paz this month, promoting those languages is part of a broad effort "to decolonize the mindset and the Bolivian state."

For Morales, the attempt to elevate languages such as Aymara and Quechua is emblematic of his government's indigenous-based social agenda: It is enormously ambitious, plagued by conflict and difficult to implement.

After announcing last year that all government employees would have to undergo indigenous language training, Morales's administration sought to require it of public school children as well, no matter where they lived. The proposal riled many in the parts of Bolivia that have little connection to indigenous communities, areas such as the eastern lowlands, where words spoken in Quechua and Aymara are often heard as threats to a way of life.

January 27, 2007

Itsy bitsy Alutiiq spider

Kodiak Natives' album effort to preserve dying languageOver five days last week, Sugpiaq singers with ties to every community on Kodiak Island came together to record songs. Not just childrens songs, but also Christian hymns sung in Alutiiq and Slavonic, and other songs native to Kodiak.

A CD from the sessions will be available for sale later in the year, and museum workers say demand from visitors already exists.

January 26, 2007

The Bible in Cheyenne

Bible in own language inspires CheyennePeople have been working on the translation for about 30 years. Their cumulative effort has resulted in the translation of at least part of most books of the Bible and the entire books of Luke, 1 John, Philippians, 1 Peter and James.

The work, Ma'heonemoxe'-estoo'o, which is Cheyenne for Bible, is available in soft- and hard-bound editions and also recorded on cassette tapes and CDs.

The translation is idiomatic, meaning it is done more in ideas than literally. For example, in the scripture where Abraham made the altar, the translation into the descriptive Cheyenne language is roughly that he piled rocks.
And how are the Cheyenne people responding?Hearing and now reading the Bible in her own language has changed Verda King's spirituality.

"A long time ago I tried to read King James," King said. "It wouldn't make sense to me until I heard it in Cheyenne. It struck home with me."

King, who is among a group of people who have worked on translating the Bible into Cheyenne, said reading the translation has motivated her to "dig deeper" in her spirituality and made the Bible more meaningful.

January 15, 2007

Crow losing ground

Fewer young people speak Crow, CheyenneEconomic, educational and religious pressures from the Anglo culture to assimilate are the reasons Crow is losing ground, Old Horn said.

Because English is equated with success, there's a negative attitude in the United States toward other languages, he said.

Speaking Crow also incorrectly has been linked with poor academic performance.

In fact, studies have show that being multilingual has a positive effect on learning, he said.

"You hear that schools don't have the time or money to teach students two languages," he said, but, in Europe, children learn several languages.

Reviving Oneida is a job

Reviving American Indian language a full-time, paying jobFor a handful of students in this central New York city, reviving an American Indian language is a full-time job.

At the Ray Elm Children and Elders Center, eight people are being paid to spend 40 hours a week learning their native Oneida language. It's part of an effort to eventually have all 1,200 members of the Oneida Indian Nation speak the language fluently.

Stories suffer in English

Translating tales into EnglishThe secret to a story's meaning lies in how the tale is told.

Told in their original language, Navajo stories are "like eating the best part of the roast beef, the one that you're afraid you'll look like a pig if you ask for it," Navajo storyteller Sunny Dooley said.

Translated to English, however, the old stories lose some of their richness, she said.

January 10, 2007

"Language is a key component"

Preserving the Apache way though language"Dawa jii’ be’ ant’ ee.” In Apache this means, “Live it every day,” but not everyone in the tribe understands what this means, whether they are full Apache or part, simply because they do not speak or understand Apache.

To the community of the San Carlos Apache Nation, this message is an outcry to its members to embrace a culture that is fading away, particularly in the area of the Apache language.

Because of this decline in tribal members speaking Apache proficiently, several community members organized a public meeting for language preservation in the summer of 2006. From this meeting, a coordinator was introduced and a survey process began.

January 09, 2007

Aboriginal language broadcasts

APTN’s “Rez Bluez” Broadcasting in Three Aboriginal LanguagesThe Aboriginal Peoples Television Network has begun broadcasting Rez Bluez in 3 Aboriginal Languages: Anishinabe-Ojibwe; Mohawk and Cayuga. As part of APTN’s commitment to preserving Aboriginal languages, the producers of Rez Bluez, Elaine Bomberry and Aaron Goldman, ensured that all 13-1 hour shows were translated into 3 different Aboriginal languages.

January 06, 2007

Songs across America

Kenai fifth-graders perform Native songs from across continentFifth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai used music as a vehicle to take fellow students and parents on a journey across North America's American Indian cultures recently.

The trip began in the Northeast, with a presentation of a Mohawk song, one that likely originated in the Southeast, and progressed across the Great Plains to the Southwest. The presentation then went to the Pacific Northwest and concluded in Alaska.

January 05, 2007

More on The New World

A language revisited

Indians and scholars hope to revive the words that once dominated coastal VirginiaIn 2003, director Terrence Malick was preparing to film a movie about Jamestown, "The New World." Blair Rudes, a linguist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was hired to translate dialogue for Pocahontas' people.

Rudes started with Colonial-era word lists and scholarly work and filled in the linguistic blanks using better-known Algonquian languages from all over the Eastern Seaboard. One scene with three pages of dialogue took him a month.

The director loved it. He wanted 50 scenes. Rudes translated in his hotel room for two weeks solid. At the end, people were speaking entire sentences in Virginia Algonquian--or at least a linguist's best guess at it--for the first time in 200 years.

His work has helped to dispel one of the area's beliefs: that "Chesapeake" means something like "Great Shellfish Bay." It doesn't, Rudes said. The name might mean something like "Great Water," or it might have been a village at the bay's mouth.

Aboriginals protest language cuts

Canada's language preservation funding cut strongly protestedHundreds of Natives from across Canada and northern New York marched on Parliament Hill on Dec. 5 demanding that the new government reinstate funding that had been earmarked for language preservation in Native communities. The Department of Canadian Heritage announced in November that it would not be providing the $172 million that Native communities were expecting. Instead, $5 million per year for seven years would be allocated for language purposes.

"Our people are frustrated and angry," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine. "And they have a right to be. We feel betrayed and we simply can't be silent about this betrayal."