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Spring Term, Fresh Start

April 7, 2010

We are off to a new term, and with this new term comes new faces and new possibilities.

Our group has had a long break since it was last up and running but we must not forget why we are doing this. Our languages are important and they do not stop living while we are at school and away from our homes! Our language learning and caring should not stop merely because it is inconvenient for us, but it should continue no matter where we are.

At this point it is almost as though we are starting from scratch. We must not forget that we are capable of doing many great things for ourselves, the Dartmouth community and also our home communities. We can learn from one another and we can then take home what we have learned here and apply it to our own communities. The possibilities are there, now we need to take advantage of them!

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Háida Shíká ‘Oolyeed Laanaa. Taa’ Shodí?

March 30, 2010

I wish someone would help me. Please?

I chose this phrase in Diné Bizaad (the Navajo Language) as the headline for this post for two reasons, namely to breathe some life into the group once again and, secondly, to tell you I cannot do this alone.

When this group was organized some time ago, it’s intention, I believe, was to foster a colloquium to address the need for active interest in indigenous languages near and far, as a network of support and scholarship in the ever evolving realm of language work in indigenous communities and also a place to showcase individual development and projects.

We have failed at these goals thus far in myriad ways, but like any good idea or intention, it is never too late to begin again.

Incidentally, I write this post from the Navajo Nation library in Tségháhoodzání, Hozdo (Window Rock, Arizona). As I sit here, I can hear and see the Navajo Language alive, but not well. In the office behind me, a librarian is gossiping in fast Navajo to her younger sister. She is complaining about her daughter’s boyfriend’s habit of walking around in only his boxer shorts and scratching himself until noon everyday. At a nearby desk, an older man whom I will call Fred (because he seems like a Fred) is talking to his wife about tonight’s dinner menu: dibé at’sí (mutton) and ch’ééh jiyáán (watermelon). He seems rather pleased by the prospect of this meal. I am at once hungry and envious. Twenty feet away, a conference regarding a conference is being conducted in crisp Navajo and the occasional English interjection while a powerpoint presentation hangs ghostly against the back wall . A few tables away, two young woman about my age or younger are sharing earphones and watching a video on YouTube. Their whispers are carried through the space in a mess of English, giggles, and the occasional word or two in Navajo. This seems to be a very broad, albeit precise representation of the current dynamics of the Navajo Language: A generation of older adults effortlessly conversing, and a younger generation with only a hint of their ancestral tongue instilled.

However, within this din of the language jungle, I was quite surprised to discover a young girl, approximately three years old according to her grandmother, speaking only Navajo with an occasional English word jumbled here or there. After speaking with bimasaní (her maternal grandmother) for a few moments, I learned this girl’s parent’s had left her in the care of the mother’s mother and had moved away. Masaní (grandma) told me it was hard keeping up with her granddaughter because her leg’s are not what they use to be, but she insists in speaking to the girl in Navajo until she enters school in a few years. I was shocked to find such a sight: a little girl who spoke hardly a word of English. All at once, I as amazed and hopeful. Not because this small girl was largely unexposed to English (although my own angst would call this a win for the ages), but because her grandmother recognizes the importance of sharing this knowledge with her. I would imagine this to be quite a great gift to give to any child. As Masaní and I spoke, I noticed the little girl had her eye on the small bag of strawberries next to my computer. So, I turned, picked up the berries and kneeled down in front of her with the bag open and said, “Da’ shídeezhi dah woozh yishdeeł holo? (Sister, would you like a strawberry?)” Her understanding eyes, went from the bag to her grandmother, who said only, “Niina’ awee’ (Take it baby).” Without hesitating she grabbed one and calmly said, “Ahe’hee shinaaí (thank you, brother).” As she and grandma walked away, it reminded me of the hard task each of us has ahead to protect and recover the sacred, spoken or otherwise. It is a something worth fighting for, but more importantly, it is something which cannot be done alone.

Shíká ‘analyeed laanaa dooleeł? Will you help me?

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Summer Term 2009

July 31, 2009

We are off to a slow start this term and  though we have only a few people on campus we can still do a few things to help promote our native languages:

• Staying updated! – we spend a lot of our time on our computers as it is, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. If you happen to find an interesting article, video, picture or anything relating to indigenous languages, post it and share with everyone.

• Welcome Wall – there are still some things that we can do to improve our wall of greetings. We can do touch-ups and also color in the dividing circles, I think this is a reasonable goal for the term

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Uvlaallautaq!

April 14, 2009

The survival of the Inuit people depends on the survival of the language. When people meet Inuit, they are disappointed if they cannot show their knowledge of Inuit ways … If the Inuit themselves don’t use their language more, it will be forgotten, and very soon the Inuit too will be a forgotten people …

There are only very few Inuit, but millions of whites, just like mosquitoes. It is something very special and wonderful to be an Inuk – they are like the snow geese. If an Inuk forgets his language and Inuit ways, he will be nothing but just another mosquito.

Abraham Okpik, 1962

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Indigenous Living Languages Schedule (Spring Term 2009)

April 14, 2009

Weekly meetings are held every Saturday at 12noon at the NAH, 35 North Main Street

Each group member will make a short 5-7 minute presentation on an issue relating to language (i.e. language and culture, language status, language policy and planning, language revitalization, language, society, government & religion, etc)

April 18: Navajo language learning tools and games (Jeremiah Watchman)

April 25: Group discussion on films as language resources; language movie commentary; setting phrases to melodies (tools for language learners). Visitor: Ada Deer.

May 3: *Date/Time Change* (Originally May 2) Overview of Alaska Native languages and status of languages; commentary for op-ed being developed (Tim Argetsinger and Anna Edwardson)

May 4: *SPECIAL* Linguistics and Native languages (in preparation for Canadian anthropology lecture)—led by Nacole Walker and Dewey Hoffman

May 9: Native Americans at Dartmouth Pow Wow weekend; roundtable discussion on language at work (things that are actually working) with Native alumni and current students

May 16: Green Key Weekend (meeting pending)

May 23: Language philosophies and resiliency (Liz Sumida Huaman and Tim Argetsinger)

SPECIAL EVENTS: Language and Native Foods Dinner at NAH TBA

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Spring 2009 Core Group Priorities

April 14, 2009

a. Find a way to bring back information shared and what is “working” to our own communities

b. Structure language group meetings with relevant weekly discussion topics; long-term goals may include College COSO recognition and/or national links

c. PowerPoint presentations from group members

d. Impact policy; co-author op-ed pieces or journal articles

e. Represent Dartmouth and Native student work at national and international conferences; create PR materials

f. Examine written language texts; critique and collaborate

g. Connect language efforts with practical activities (i.e. Occom Pond Singers) and visible reminders of language (“Welcome” in all languages posted at NAH)

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