May 29, 2011

New Testament in Gwich'in

Bible's New Testament translated into tribal languageThe Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says the DeMers, who are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators, have worked for 31 years to complete the Gwich'in translation of the New Testament.

The Gwich'in people are the only Athabascan tribe to have the New Testament in their language.

May 20, 2011

Children's book in Tlingit

Children's book aims to save dying Alaskan language

Scholar's version of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse translated into Tlingit with the help of local elders

By Alison Flood
The first ever children's book to be translated into the endangered Alaskan language of Tlingit has just been published, with hopes riding high that it will help keep the dying language alive.

Inspired by the classic story of the town mouse and the country mouse, American book award-winning author and historian of her mother's Tlingit tribe Ernestine Hayes wrote The Story of the Town Bear and the Forest Bear in English. Local publisher Hazy Island Books then worked with Tlingit elders to translate the book into the highly endangered language, spoken today by only around 500 people, releasing Aanka Xóodzi ka Aasgutu Xóodzi Shkalneegi–illustrated by Tlingit woman Wanda Culp–earlier this month.

"As far as we know, this book is the first to be originally written in English and then translated into the Tlingit language," said Hayes, an English professor at the University of Alaska.

May 15, 2011

Dakota and Ojibwe doomed?

Working Group Says Dakota and Ojibwe Language Survival is QuestionableIn 2009, the Minnesota State Legislature established a volunteer working group to “develop a unified strategy to revitalize and preserve indigenous languages of the 11 federally recognized American Indian tribes in Minnesota.” That group turned in its report, Dakota and Ojibwe Language Revitalization in Minnesota in February.

The first key finding listed is that Dakota and Ojibwe languages are in “critical condition,” because the population of fluent and first speakers—who were raised speaking the language—is small to begin with and many don’t have teaching credentials.

The working group recognizes the importance of revitalizing American Indian languages because they are “more than grammar and vocabulary. They are inseparable from American Indian identity. Languages express, reflect, and maintain the connections of people to one another and to the world around them. They are shaped over millennia by communal experience, and they shape how a people come to know who they are and what is true, where they came from, where they live, and how the world around them works materially and spiritually.”

But the group fears that assaults on Native culture in general may mean it’s too late for the languages. They say the survival of Dakota and Ojibwe languages “remains a question. After centuries of assault, indigenous languages require heroic life-saving measures on many fronts.”