December 29, 2011

Erdrich sisters' Ojibwe-language press

Literature the Ojibwe Way: Erdrich Sisters’ Wiigwaas Press Helps Preserve Ojibwemowin

By Konnie LeMayIn 2008, Heid and Louise Erdrich, both authors and sisters from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, founded the Birchbark House Fund “to support the work of indigenous language scholars and authors,” Heid Erdrich told Indian Country Today Media Network. In 2010 the two created Wiigwaas Press to publish books solely in the Ojibwe language. Heid oversees the day-to-day operations. Wiigwaas, or birch bark, seemed an appropriate name; the durable bark once served as the medium for delivering messages.

“That was our original writing material for the sacred literature as well as the personal stories,” said Erdrich. “Birch bark was also used for messages such as, ‘We went thataways.’ It was the ‘sticky notes’ of the Ojibwe.”

The sisters first discussed a need for an Ojibwe-language press when Louise helped Mille Lacs Band elder Jim Clark write his autobiography. In 2002 she published that book, Naawigiizis, The Memories of Center of the Moon, through her Minneapolis bookstore, Birchbark Books.

“James Clark has written both in English and in Anishinaabemowin,” Heid Erdrich said. “But the language doesn’t translate precisely.”
Below:  "From left, sisters Heid, Louise and Angela Erdrich enjoy some time together. Heid and Louise are authors and have created Birchbark House Fund to support indigenous language scholars and authors and Wiigwaas Press to publish Ojibwe-language books. Dr. Angela Erdrich, a pediatrician at the Indian Health Board in Minneapolis, is on the national board of Reach Out and Read." (Marian Moore)

December 22, 2011

Cherokee Nation joins Unicode Consortium

Cherokee Nation Joins International Language ConsortiumThe Cherokee Nation has joined the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit formed in 1987 to set international software standards, to help promote growth in use of the Cherokee language.

“Our program [the Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program] focuses on getting all kinds of technology to support the Cherokee language. So, we’ve done work with Apple to get Cherokee on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and we’ve worked with Facebook to get some of the localization of that into the syllabary. We’ve worked with Google doing the same thing,” said Roy Boney Jr., a language technologist with the Cherokee Nation.

“When Windows 8 comes out next year, it’ll have a keyboard and font standard on all Windows 8 machines as well,” said Boney’s co-worker and fellow language technologist, Joseph Erb. “We work with major companies to make sure that when a product comes out our language has access to it.”
Below:  Roy Boney Jr. (left) and Joseph Erb (right), language technologists with Cherokee Nation Education Services, give a presentation about Cherokee language technology during a conference. The Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee language are now represented in the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit international organization that sets international software standards."

December 17, 2011

Porcupine books in Ojibwe

Mom Turned Author Creates Aboriginal Children’s CharacterFaced with two sons learning to read and no dual-language books at her disposal, Emilie Corbiere took matters into her own hands. She created Porcupine, a “grumpy sourpuss” who trots through the world having adventures and making friends.

“There just didn’t seem to be anything out there for my children,” she told the Canadian digital magazine “I looked in bookshops and in the library and couldn’t find what I was looking for. I made up my mind to create a character that children could relate to but that could also be written using the Ojibwe language.”

What sets the series apart is that each book contains four Ojibwe words that are repeated throughout the story, by way of teaching a bit of language as kids learn to read.

December 16, 2011

Census data on Native languages

Arizona has most Indian language speakersApache County in Arizona has 37,000 speakers of an American Indian language, the highest concentration in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

A report by the bureau's American FactFinder said although the majority of American Indian language speakers reside in areas where there are concentrated populations of American Indians or Alaskan indigenous peoples, only 5 percent of the residents of those areas speak a tribal language.

Sixty-five percent of tribal language speakers live in just three states--Alaska, Arizona and New Mexico. Nine counties within the three states contain half the nation's tribal language speakers, the report said.

After Apache County in Arizona, McKinley County, N.M., has the second most speakers at 33,000. Together, about 20 percent of all American Indian language speakers in the nation live in these two counties.

The most commonly spoken American Indian language is Navajo, with more than 169,000 people speakers nationally--nearly nine times larger than the second- and third-most commonly spoken languages of Yupik and Dakota, with each having about 19,000 speakers.
Navajos top list of Native language speakers in US

By Felicia FonsecaMore people speak Navajo at home than any other Native American language, a seemingly promising 169,000 people at a time when some tribes have lost their native tongue or are struggling to retain the words of their ancestors.

Evangeline Parsons Yazzie, a Navajo professor at Northern Arizona University, said the figure recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau is no surprise, but can be misleading. The country's population of Navajos is well over 300,000. For every one who speaks the language, one doesn't--and those are likely younger Navajos, Yazzie said.

"Navajo has the largest population, they say, of Native speakers, but it also has the largest population of non-speakers," she said Wednesday. "And it kind of presents a skewed picture."

The figure is based on five-year estimates from community surveys that allowed the Census for the first time to study small segments of the U.S. population. The Census found in a study released this month that fewer than a half-million people age 5 and over speak a Native American language at home. About 65 percent of them are in nine counties in Arizona, New Mexico and Alaska.
U.S. Census:  Over 27,000 Oklahomans Speak A Native American LanguageA northeastern Arizona county has the highest number of Native American language speakers in the country.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Apache County in eastern Arizona has 37,000 such speakers, while 10 Oklahoma counties have just over 27,000 Native American language speakers.

The figure is based on five-year estimates from community surveys that allowed the Census for the first time to study small segments of the U.S. population.

The Census found that fewer than a half-million people age 5 and over speak a Native American language at home.

December 14, 2011

Salish numbers book

Salish Numbers Book Helps Kids Learn Native LanguageChildren aged 2 to 6 can now learn to count in nsəlxcin—the Colville-Okanagan Interior Salish Language spoken by Native American and First Nations peoples who live between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains in Washington and British Columbia, Canada.

The 26-page book nsəlxcin sc'ak'—Salish Numbers by Jennifer Childress is illustrated with full-color photographs and includes a pronunciation guide. The book was published by Shinkashim, which is a division of Childress Media & Design, LLC, which according to its website “offers Interior Salish language books and educational materials for young children as part of the on-going effort to preserve and promote the family of endangered Interior Salish languages.”

The book is $19.95 for paperback and $49.95 for hardcover. To download the order form visit the Shinkashim website.

Raiders broadcasts in Navajo

Raiders vs Lions to Be Broadcast in Navajo

Sunday marks the 13th time a Raiders game will be broadcast in Navajo on KTNN 660 AMFor the seventh consecutive season, KTNN 660, the Voice of the Navajo Nation, will broadcast a Raiders game to their audience in the four-corners of the Southwest this Sunday when the Oakland Raiders take on the Detroit Lions at O.Co Coliseum. Raider games have been broadcast in Navajo 12 previous times over the past six seasons through an agreement with KTNN 660 AM–one each in 2010 and 2009, two in 2008, four in 2007, two in 2006 and two in 2005. L.A. Williams and Ray Tsosie, both award-winning broadcasters, will again call the action.

"We salute the Navajo Nation and are honored and proud to broadcast Raiders games in Navajo," said Oakland Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask. "Broadcasting our games in Navajo is part of our commitment to reaching our global fan base in a variety of languages and furthers the efforts of the Navajo Nation to preserve this important and valuable language."

December 12, 2011

Mvskoke-language Bible

From Greek to Creek:  Man publishes Mvskoke language Bible

By Karen ShadeA retired welder from General Motors’ Oklahoma City plant, Randall formed the idea to reprint the Bible in the language of the Muscogee-Creek and Seminole people when he attended a Muscogee language class. Randall doesn’t speak the language but for some phrases and a handful of words, yet he remembers his parents and grandparents speaking it in the home to all the children.

“They spoke fluent Creek and talked to one another. They spoke to us in the Creek language also,” he said. “We understood what they were saying, but for some reason we didn’t pick it up.”
And:Randall learned a few early versions of the Creek Bible New Testament had been printed. However, it was a woman named Ann Eliza Worchester Robertson who made the biggest leap. By the time of her death in 1905, Mrs. Robertson, a missionary at the old Tullahassee Mission, had nearly finished revising her translation of the New Testament for its fifth edition printing. She’d even worked on part of the Old Testament directly from Greek holy texts where she could. A woman of letters, she found antiquity Greek language had similarities to Creek, and it made sense to work from a more direct source than from the King James Version.

Eventually, the Tullahassee Mission was closed. Robertson was a frail woman and tended to be ill. During her periods of recuperation, she worked on her translation with the help of native speakers.

When Randall resumed her work in 2002, he began by retyping the translation with the help of his son, Monte Randall, to put it back in print. He streamlined the style by making changes such as converting all–not just some–of the chapters to Arabic numerals rather than Roman numerals. He was careful about approaching his work and any necessary revisions.

“Even though this lady translated it and I reprinted it, I don’t want to change God’s words. That’s my thought–to be as accurate as I can,” he said.
Below:  "Steve Randall, a Muscogee Creek, holds a copy of his Muscogee language Bible in front of his church, Hickory Ground No. 2 Indian Baptist, south of Henryetta, Okla." (Karen Shade/Native American Times Photo)