Cultural Survival Q
The interconnectedness of languages, rivers, and forests Also: Celebrating culture through food, art, and music
Volume 35, Issue 4 â€˘ december 2011 US $7.50/CAN $9
d ecember 2011 V olume 35, Issue 4 Board of Directors President & Co-Chair
Richard Bell, Wewereherefirst, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 2 parts, 96 x 144 in. overall. Private collection, Brisbane.
Sarah Fuller Vice Chairman
Richard Grounds (Euchee) Treasurer
Jeff Wallace Clerk
Jean Jackson Karmen Ramírez Boscán (Wayuu) Marcus Briggs-Cloud (Miccosukke) Westy Egmont Laura Graham James Howe Cecilia Lenk Pia Maybury-Lewis Les Malezer (Gabi Gabi) P. Ranganath Nayak Vincent Nmehielle (Ikwerre) Ramona Peters (Wampanoag) Stella Tamang (Tamang) Roy Young
Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts
F e at u r e s 16 A River Tale
FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival 215 Prospect Street Cambridge, MA 02139 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org P.O. Box 7490 Boulder, CO 80306 t 303.444.0306 f 303.449.9794
Kendra McSweeney, Zoe Pearson, Sara Santiago, Ana Gabriela Dominguez The lives of the Tawahka people of Honduras are intertwined with the Patuca River, but a dam project threatens to change everything.
12 In Pursuit of Autonomy
Danielle DeLuca Indigenous Peoples Oppose Dam Construction on the Patuca River in Honduras
22 A Day in the Life
7 Avenida Norte #51 Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez, Guatemala
Hope Ross Guatemala’s Radio Doble Via keeps its listeners current on issues that pertain to the country’s Indigenous Peoples.
24 The Yuchi House
Cultural Survival Quarterly
Copy Editor: Barbara Ellen Sorensen Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Production Manager: Agnes Portalewska
View writers’ guidelines at our website (www. cs.org) or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Cultural Survival recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have long been exploited by photographers and publications. This publication does not pay photographers for images and makes no money from publishing them. We also make a tremendous effort to identify every Indigenous individual in the images that appear here. From time to time, however, such identification is not possible. We apologize to the subjects of those photos and to ny reader offended by the omission. Cultural Survival Quarterly is printed on paper that is a combination of post-consumer recycled fiber and fiber from sustainably managed nonpublic forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. The printer exclusively uses inks, chemicals, and solvents that are biodegradable and recyclable.
D e pa r t m e n t s
Renee Grounds The Yuchi House serves as a learning and community center where the revitalization of the Yuchi language is being realized.
26 I Love Sauk Language
Jennifer Weston, Barbara Sorensen Community participation has been vital to the success of the Sauk Language Department in Stroud, Oklahoma.
28 Walking in Time Toward 2012
Cesar Gomez Prophecy about the end of the world demystified.
1 Executive Director’s Message A Time for Change, Celebration, and Reflection
2 In the News 4 Indigenous Arts Reclaiming Aborigeneity: Richard Bell
6 Women the World Must Hear Awakening a Sleeping Language on Cape Cod 8 Food for Life Forget the Pineapple Pizza; We’ll Have the Pa'i 'ai 10 Rights in Action Voice of Conscience: Mick Dodson’s Place Amidst Australia’s Unfinished Business 21 Bazaar Artist Hawk Henries hand-crafts and plays Native flutes to encourage dialogue between people.
g lo b a l r e s p o n s e c a m pa i g n I n s e r t Take action with the Kuy people of Cambodia to protect a unique, threatened forest.
On the cover Miskitu youth help their father (who is off camera to the right) deliver bananas and plantains from their farm to their village along the Patuca River, Honduras. A proposed dam upriver threatens their way of life. Photo by Sara Santiago
Executive Director’ S messa ge
A Time for Change, Celebration, and Reflection “Yá'át'ééh” Greetings!
ello friends and readers. In this issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly, there is much to be celebrated. Aboriginal artist Richard Bell invites us into his colorful and provocative world of visual art; Indigenous flautist Hawk Henries reminds us of the peace music can bring; the Mayan calendar is explored; the strength and determination of three women ensure that the Sauk language is not forgotten; and in Hawaii, pa'i 'ai is finally recognized as a truly Indigenous food source. I hope you enjoy the Quarterly and note the new look of the magazine. At Cultural Survival we are increasingly working to effectively use new communications media and strengthen the integration of printed materials with the website. Cultural Survival Quarterly has added a new section: “News From Around the World.” In this segment of the magazine, we report victories and other news ranging from court rulings that recognize Indigenous Peoples’ efforts to preserve land, resources, and languages to governments that champion human rights, justice, and dignity. We also include progress updates on our Global Response campaigns in the Quarterly, on our website, and via our E-newsletter. These campaigns support Indigenous communities as they struggle to protect their environment and the biodiversity on which they depend. When you send letters and emails for our letter-writing campaigns, you share in our victories—like the one we are celebrating now in Papua New Guinea. Please see the current “Global Response Campaign” insert in this issue and lift it out of the magazine and share it with friends, families, and colleagues. Our “Youth Action Alert” encourages young students and teachers to raise their voices, too, for environmental protection. While there is so much to be thankful for, there are still many challenges that Indigenous people face. These serious and potentially devastating issues, like the proposed damming of the Patuca River in Honduras, must be heeded. In an article written by Kendra McSweeney, Zoe Pearson, Sara Santiago, and Ana Gabriela Dominguez,
we are invited to travel alongside Doña Rufina Cardona, an elder, as she relates the Patuca River’s turbulent history, and its ever-present capacity to hold the hearts and souls of the Miskitu people. Many of the stories in this issue speak to the interconnectedness of the struggles of all Indigenous Peoples against impartial governments that have forgotten justice, rights, and responsibilities. For example, Aboriginal law professor Mick Dodson still must confront the Australian government over human rights issues and land titles. There are stories that will resonate with those who have empathy and integrity, such as the ongoing challenge of the Yuchi people of Sapulpa, Oklahoma to keep their language vital and alive. During times of celebration, there is always a corner for reflection. Cultural Survival is just one organization trying to make many small, yet graceful responses to the perpetual barrage of injustices to the earth’s Indigenous Peoples. As the seasons of hope and joy draw closer, I hope that many of you will remember that peace and justice are connected and that there really is a way to combat injustice and cruelty. We can all be reflective and graceful in how we walk on this earth. We can all be musicians, artists, and poets of humanity and hope. We can all see with the clear, sharp eyes of the elders, like Doña Rufina Cardona. Indigenous hearts may flow with the rivers of our past, but we continue to live in the present and pray the rivers will still flow, always hopeful and ready to fight for the future of our children. Finally, as an organization, we remain mindful of our role in consumption of natural resources, waste, and costs of production. To that end we will continue exploring how to best communicate these critically important issues and the voices of Indigenous people, as well as share with you the work that we are doing. You may also find the Cultural Survival Quarterly on our website at www.cs.org.
Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)
Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Danielle DeLuca, Program Associate Kristen Dorsey (Chickasaw), Endangered Language Consultant David Michael Favreau, Bazaar Program Manager Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Cesar Gomez (Pocomam), Content Production and Training Coordinator for the Community Radio Project Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Paula Palmer, Global Response Program Director Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Rosendo Pablo (Mam), Program Associate for the Community Radio Project Alberto ‘Tino’ Recinos (Mam), Citizen Participation Coordinator for the Community Radio Project. Miranda Vitello, Development Assistant Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota), Endangered Languages Program Manager Ancelmo Xunic (Kachikel), Guatemala Community Radio Program Manager
Program Advisors jessie little doe (Wampanoag) Theodore Macdonald, Jr.
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Ava Berinstein, Don Butler, Ana Lucia Fariña, Aisha Farley, Rachael Fermino, Sunny Fitzgerald, Daniel Horgan, Erica Jaffe Redner, Talia Katz-Watson, Curtis Kline, Allison Mackin, Paula Svaton, Hope Ross
Copyright 2011 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Printed on recycled paper in the U.S.A. Please note that the views in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Survival.
2011 Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation
1. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 2. Publication Number: 0740-3291 3. Filing Date: October 30, 2011 4. Issue Frequency: Quarterly 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: Four 6. Annual Subscription Price: $45.00 7. Mailing Address of Publication: 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 8. Mailing Address of Publisher Headquarters: 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 9. Full Mailing Address and Complete Names of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor-Publisher: Cultural Survival, Inc. 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139, Editor/Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska, Cultural Survival, 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 10. Owner: Cultural Survival, Inc., 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Securities: None 12. Tax Status: The purpose, function, and nonprofit status for federal income tax purposes has not changed during the preceding 12 months 13. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: Winter 2011-Issue 35, Volume 3 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: a. Total Number of Copies: Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 3742; Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: 4000 b. Paid and/or Requested Circulation-1. Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541: 2040; 2200 2. Paid In-County Subscriptions: 207; 211 3. Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution: 675; 800 4. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS: 175; 185 c. Total Paid and/ or Requested Circulation: 3097; 3396 d. Free Distribution by Mail: 275; 300 e. Free Distribution Outside the Mail: 250; 300 f. Total Free Distribution: 525; 600 g. Total Distribution: 3622; 3696 h. Copies Not Distributed: 120; 304 i. Total: 3742; 4000 j. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 96.7; 92.4 16. This Statement of Ownership is printed in the Winter 2011 issue of this publication 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete: Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager, Cultural Survival, Inc.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 1
i n t h e n ew s Peru Officially Recognizes Indigenous Languages July 5, 2011
The Peruvian Congress officially recognized Indigenous languages by passing Law 29735, the Law for the Use, Preservation, Development, Revitalization, and Use of Indigenous Languages, proposed by Congresswoman Maria Sumire. The law recognizes that language diversity is linked to the expression of individual and collective identity and makes Indigenous languages official. This law repeals Decree Law 21,156, which recognized Quechua as an official language of Peru. Public administration will now have to communicate in the 80 In- digenous languages spoken in Peru.
Paraguay Returns Ancestral Lands to Indigenous Community August 3, 2011
The government of Paraguay officially returned almost 9,000 hectares of ancestral lands to the Indigenous community Kelyenmagategma of the Enxet people in response to a petition filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2004. The community filed their petition because they were displaced by force from their ancestral land. In October 2004, the commission granted pre- cautionary measures in favor of the Kelyenmagategma community to protect lives and physical integrity, to provide humanitarian support to displaced persons, and guarantee their return to their lands.
Maya Q’eqchi’ File Petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Guatemala August 19, 2011
The Maya Q’eqchi community of Agua Caliente, El Estor, Izabal, filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Guatemala for violating their rights. Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel was awarded a license to extract 2 • www.cs.org
Lucia Meloq’s Quechua language is finally officially recognized by the Peruvian government. Huilloc, Peru. Photo by David Ducoin
nickel from 16 Indigenous communities, including Agua Caliente. In February 2011, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Agua Caliente. Guatemala has not fully complied with court orders. Agua Caliente is seeking justice through the regional human rights system.
Peru’s President Signs Prior Consultation Law September 6, 2011
Peru’s President Ollanta Humala signed a historic law guaranteeing Indigenous Peoples the right to prior consultation about any mining, logging, or petroleum projects affecting them and their territories. President Humala said he wanted Indigenous people to be treated like citizens who must be consulted where their interests are involved. The bill was unanimously approved by Congress on August 23, 2011. It is intended to ensure that Peru’s local laws are in compliance with the International Labour Organization’s Con- vention 169.
Costa Rican Court Rules in Favor of the Bribri September 12, 2011
The Contentious Administrative Court of Costa Rica ruled that the ancestral lands of the Bribri people of the Keköldi
Global Response Campaign Updates Philippines: Stop Mine on Indigenous Lands SLAPP Suit Against Ifugaos In Didipio Dismissed September 13, 2011
A municipal judge in the Philippines dismissed charges against nine Ifugao Indigenous people who are members of the Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association. DESAMA has organized opposition to a gold mine that displaced Indigenous landowners and threatens the water supply in this agricultural region. The judge’s decision reinforces DESAMA’s opinion that the charges constituted a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” (SLAPP) suit, a tactic aimed at eliminating public opposition to corporate projects. Mexico: Stop Mine/ Protect Sacred Site UN Special Rapporteur Dialogues with Mexican Officials on Mining in Wirikuta Reserve
September 12, 2011
James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently published his correspondence with the Mexican government regarding mining concessions within Mexico’s
Reserve must be returned. The Bribri live in the Talamanca Canton in Limón Province of Costa Rica. Keköldi Reserve was created in 1977 on the Caribbean coast, after non-Indigenous groups began settling on the land. International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, which Costa Rica ratified in 1993, was referenced in the decision.
corporations, announced a new policy that will require clients to obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities that could be affected by their projects. Approved as part of an updated Sustainability Framework by IFC’s board of directors on May 12, 2011, the policy will take effect on January 1, 2012.
International Finance Corporation Includes Free, Prior, and Informed Consent In New Policy
Philippines: Indigenous Legislator Introduces Bill to Strengthen Free, Prior, and Informed Consent
September 12, 2011
September 12, 2011
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the branch of the World Bank Group that loans money to private
Citing the documented negative effects of mining operations on Indigenous communities, Ifugao Congressman
Wirikuta Natural and Cultural Reserve, an area that is sacred to the Wixárika (Huichol) people. Anaya noted that the government of Mexico authorized mining concessions within the protected Wirikuta Natural and Cultural Reserve, without consulting with the Wixárika people. He urged Mexico to recognize the Wixárika people’s right to free, prior, and informed consent and offered to assist the government in implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, if invited to visit the country.
well as the Russian Federation’s international obligations related to the Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites.”
October 15, 2011
In reply to a letter from Cultural Survival, Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment acknowledged “high ecological risks” in the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline across the Ukok Plateau, reiterating its preference for alternate routes. The letter, signed by N.R. Inamov, director of the Department of International Cooperation, states that the Altai pipeline route, which is opposed by Telengit and other Indigenous communities of the Altai region, “is in contradiction with a number of Russian federal laws on protected areas, as
October 18, 2011
Papua New Guinea’s government announced that it will restore the right of landowners to challenge in court any development project they feel could be detrimental to the environment. The National Executive Council agreed to
Fourth Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples September 13, 2011
In the shadow of the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, many people failed to recognize another significant event. Four years ago, on September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly signed into existence the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
repeal the Environmental Amendment Act, passed by the legislature in May 2010, which denied landowners this right. Cultural Survival joins Indigenous landowners in Papua New Guinea in celebrating the government’s decision to reverse the amendments, and we share in the victory. Our campaign called on the government to revoke the amendments.
Learn more and take action on Global Response campaigns at www.cs.org/ take-action. Sign up for our e-newsletter and read more news at www.cs.org/news.
Telengit people make offerings at a sacred site “Jeele” on the Ukok Plateau, Altai Republic, Russia.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
Photo courtesy of Ere-Chui Association of Obshchinas of the Telengit.
Russia: Pipeline Threatens Sacred Highlands Ministry of Natural Resources Recommends Re-routing Pipeline Away from Ukok Plateau
Campaign Victory Papua New Guinea: Protect Marine Life and Defend Indigenous Rights Government Reverses Amendment to Environmental Act
Teddy Brawner Baguilat is pushing for a new mining law that respects and protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Winter 2011 • 3
Reclaiming Aborigeneity: Richard Bell Aisha Farley and Agnes Portalewska
boriginal Australian artist Richard Bell’s artwork has been labeled “provocative,” “uncompromising,” and “controversial” for bringing race politics into the mainstream, however, Bell sees himself as “more activist than artist.” “I’m just being matter of fact,” he says. “I recognize some people find [my work] contentious, and that my paintings attract controversy. This response has nothing to do with me; the response has to do with the viewer.” For over two decades, self-taught Bell has created art that challenges the status quo, shocks the establishment, and inspires discussion for change. Born in 1953, in Charleville, Queensland, northeastern Australia, as a member of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities, Bell spent his early childhood living in a tent, then a corrugated tin shack. Later, he lived in a Christian reeducation facility for “half-casts” (biracial children) where his mother worked. These centers were established in the 1930s to house mixedrace children who were forcibly removed from their families
Richard Bell, Psalm Singing Suite, 2007–09. Installation of approximately 30 paintings, all acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable. Courtesy Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts
4 • www.cs.org
to be prepared for assimilation into white society. His family later settled on an Aboriginal reserve and lived there until Bell was 14. Living on the reserve, Bell witnessed firsthand the mistreatment of Aboriginal people when his home was bulldozed by the government. In the 1970s, Bell became involved in the Aboriginal Rights Movement, and in the 1980s he worked for the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service. When he was 34, Bell began painting as a way to earn money by making souvenirs for tourists. Why did Bell become a serious artist? “I’m a jock and like most jocks in Australia, I thought art was for girls. Someone convinced me that in the art world there was quite a large, powerful, and influential audience. I was told that through my art I could get into activism, express almost any issue, and not get arrested. I liked that part,” he laughs. Since then, Bell has flipped the table on Western art; Bell plays with the appropriation of abstract expressionism and pop art styles of painters like Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock. The text that accompanies each piece is what causes shock in some circles. Bell is brutally honest in
exposing Australia’s racism towards Aboriginal people, the endemic white privilege, negative stereotyping, and exoticizing of the “other” that perpetuates itself in almost every facet of the mainstream media. Invasion, displacement, violence, genocide, broken treaties, language loss, systematized racism, marginalization, and dispossession of Aboriginal communities are common themes in Bell’s art. He says, “[There is] a lot of discussion going on about [these issues] all over the country, but it’s in Aboriginal residences, not in the mainstream; these issues are not [discussed] in the mainstream. What I do is very un-Aboriginal; it’s very unusual for Aboriginal people to have an opinion and to espouse it loudly.” After years of activism with the Aboriginal Rights Movement, Bell’s artwork finally emerged in the spotlight when his painting Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell’s Theorem) won the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. With the words “Aboriginal Art—It’s A White Thing” splashed across the canvas, his painting demanded attention to the exploitation and commodification of Indigenous art and aesthetics by the white art market. The painting also challenged non-Aboriginal artists who appropriate Indigenous symbols in their work, and the common misunderstanding of traditional and modern Indigenous art. When asked how one might resist this type of commodification, Bell is clear: “Re-appropriate in return.” Then, he adds, “We need the academics to write about issues. We need to discuss these things. Remember, we are back at looking at the circumstances facing our people. Immediate survival is paramount, that is the rule. In that context, how do we get back in-sync? How do we inform white people that this is going on? It’s a huge task to undertake. Taking the effort to go and inform the people is probably one of the best things to do. This is what happens in my work. When Aboriginal people walk through [my exhibits], it’s gratifying to me because they become aware of issues happening in other parts of the country. One of the big issues I’ve been talking about for six or seven years now is the death of a man in Palm Island in North Queensland, in 2004. We are quite familiar with the circumstance. We keep talking about it. This man died while in custody [of the police] and the arresting officer was acquitted; we are all scared now when one of our children or relatives is arrested—whether they will survive. We know that the perpetrator of any crime against us will be acquitted with impunity. So that’s why we have not let this issue die and keep it topical so that we do not forget and we let them know that we have not forgotten. This incident sparked the creation of my painting Psalm Singing Suite (2007). The whole issue is abominable.” What does Bell see as the biggest barrier to aboriginal artists? Bell answers this question emphatically: “White male privilege. Maura Riley [my curator] gave this talk in Cannes, France. She compared how many white males and how many white females were included in various exhibits to how many people of color [were included in exhibits]. At the Whitney Museum, in New York City, 63 percent of exhibits were by white males, 35 percent by white females, and only 1 percent by people of color. The rest of the world (two-thirds of the world’s population), is represented through art by only 1 percent. When you look at those numbers, that is the biggest barrier.” How does Bell measure success? “I’m really happy if people
Richard Bell, The Peckin’ Order, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches, private collection, Brisbane. Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts
can recognize themselves and their family in the artwork. Then, I feel that I am actually communicating to people. When white people come in and then leave saying, ‘I felt really, really uncomfortable with this show,’ I think, ‘Damn, that is good.’ I try to observe how my exhibit affects them. Here [in the United States] people are much more willing to share their opinions, but back home [in Australia] they are more reserved. They have that British reserve.” Bell’s introductory North American exhibition, Richard Bell: I Am Not Sorry, showcased in New York in the fall of 2009. Bell’s work can now be seen in a traveling exhibition entitled Us vs. Them. “Aboriginal people need to be more open [about what we want]. Directness is needed. We can’t just talk in metaphor; we can’t just whisper. These issues have to be screeched from the rooftops.” Richard Bell currently lives in Brisbane. — Aisha Farley, a former Cultural Survival intern, interviewed Richard Bell in September.
Richard Bell: Uz vs. Them Tufts University Gallery http://ase.tufts.edu/gallery/shows/bell.html University of Kentucky Art Museum February 12–May 6, 2012 Victoria H. Myhren Gallery, University of Denver September 13–December 9, 2012 Indiana University Art Museum March 7–May 12, 2013 The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and supported by the Queensland Government, Australia, through Trade and Investment Queensland’s Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing and Export Agency (QIAMEA). Additional support has come from the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts and the Embassy of Australia, Washington, D.C.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 5
wo m e n t h e wo r l d m u s t hear
Awakening a Sleeping Language on Cape Cod Jennifer Weston and Barbara Sorensen
ow can a dream inspire an entire nation’s language revitalization THE WOPANAAK movement? If you ask jessie LANGUAGE little doe baird of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe that question, she is quick RECLAMATION to explain how in one of her dreams, her PROJECT’S ancestors told her to “ask Wampanoag people if they would like language home again,” so MASTERin 1993, baird met with tribal elders, leaders, APPRENTICE and community members who transformed her dreams into the Wampanoag Language PROGRAM Reclamation Project (WLRP). Thus three successive nights of dreams in a language she couldn’t then understand, became a vision widely embraced by the Wampanoag Nation in southeastern Massachusetts. In 2008, Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program began collaborating with WLRP to research and raise funds to support their efforts, and working with Makepeace Productions to create a PBS documentary film called We Still Live Here—Âs Nutayuneân, relating the remarkable story of the reawakening and return home of the Wampanaog language No English after many generations without first-language speakers. spoken here! The Wampanoag Nation includes the federally recognized Participants Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribes, the state- and tribally-recognized Herring Pond, and Assonet Wampanoag of the 2011 communities, and smaller family bands, all of whom live on Language Cape Cod and the areas around Martha’s Vineyard. We Still Immersion Live Here explores how the awakening of this “sleeping” lanCamp. guage evolved. In fall 2010, baird received an award from the Photo MacArthur Foundation, popularly dubbed a “genius grant.” A by James Vanerhoop week later, the tribe’s language project received a federal grant
6 • www.cs.org
to implement a master apprentice program with jessie as the master speaker to three full-time language apprentices, Nitana Hicks, Tracy Kelly, and Melanie Roderick, who share her long-term commitment to opening a tribal charter school. The school would teach all subjects in Wampanoag—modeled after the Native Hawaiian immersion school system. In the midst of the whirlwind that accompanies public recognition and admiration, baird is decidedly humble and resolute—still closely focused on the day-to-day work that needs to be done to ensure the survival of her Indigenous language. For a language to be labeled endangered is a matter of degree. There are three key criteria that UNESCO scholars and linguists have refined to designate a language as being vulnerable to endangerment: 1) the numbers of speakers who are still living; 2) the average age of native and fluent speakers, and 3) the percentage of the youngest members of a community who have learned the language and can easily articulate it. More than half of the world’s 6,000–7,000 languages are threatened with extinction this century. The importance and significance of all Indigenous languages cannot be emphasized enough. Languages encompass historical, linguistic, cultural, environmental, and spiritual distinctions that are valuable to all peoples. The decline of Indigenous languages is tragic in that important observations
Closing ceremony of the Summer Turtle program. jessie little doe baird (right) and seven year old Mae Alice Baird (in pink) who was raised with Wampanoag as her first language. courtesy of Wopanaak Language Reclamation project
concerning biodiversity—and other human wisdom accrued over millennia—are lost as well. Information about the natural world and its storehouse of types of edible food, knowledge of weather and tidal movements, and scientific illumination about wildlife and insects could potentially become irretrievable. Neurolinguists and other researchers exploring cognitive development and human communication also lose priceless data offering insight into how the human brain functions. By studying the morphology of a language, and its linguistic origins, research into how the brain constructs reality can be more fully understood. To quell the rapid and relentless disappearance of Indigenous languages, various methods have been used in conjunction with community efforts. One such methodology is the master-apprentice language immersion model. In this model, a master speaker pairs with an adult apprentice or a small team, and works intensively in the language with that person or group for 20–30 hours a week, across a given period of time. The language nest—an approach developed by the Maori and Native Hawaiians—is intergenerational with adults speaking the endangered language to preschool-age children in daycare classrooms and at home, even before reading and writing skills are taught. Perhaps the most successful models of language revitalization have been immersion or medium schools. These schools and programs educate primary, middle, and high school students via immersion classes conducted in the Indigenous language. Perhaps the most difficult method to implement is reclamation. This is how the Wampanoag language was given new life. Reclamation, however, is difficult to implement unless the language has been extremely well-documented. Still, even with that benefit, a linguistic researcher must cross-reference with closely related spoken languages and cull through extensive written material. Wampanoag is just one of more than three dozen languages that branch out from the tree that encompasses the Algonquian language family. Because it has been studied by religious scholars and linguists for centuries, and is closely related to languages like Blackfeet, Cree, Ojibwe, Passamaquoddy, and Sauk that are still spoken by tribes spanning from Canada into Montana and Oklahoma, it was possible for WLRP’s linguistic team to determine rules of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The WLRP’s Master Apprentice Program stands out even among Cultural Survival’s network of more than 300 Indigenous language programs in the United States, and is one of 12 communities selected to be featured on OurMother Tongues.org the companion website to We Still Live Here—
Âs Nutayuneân that explores language revita- Wampanoag people from lization in Indian country. The 12 tribal lan- the 17th and 18th centuries guage communties include: Cherokee, Sauk, left their descendants the Mohawk, Wampanoag, Salish, Crow, Navajo, largest repository of NativeYuchi, Alutiiq, Dakota, Lakota, and Ojibwe. written documents on the Though baird initially helped to spear- continent—including the first head the miraculous revitalization of the bible published in the Western Wampanoag language, there are many people who appear in We Still Live Here who have Hemisphere. The Wampanoag been integral to the sustaining and building language has been reclaimed upon the successes of the Wampanoag Lan- using documents like this guage Reclamation Project. Baird reaches out land transfer between Wamto any and every willing Wampanoag per- panoag men. April 16, 1685. son—ages 2 to 92—who is ready to partici- Duke's County archives on pate and learn Wôpanâôt8âôk (Wampanoag Martha's Vineyard. Language). WLRP has developed five Wampanoag grammar workbooks that are accessible to the lay-person, each accompanied by a CD or MP3 file so students can practice when they’re not in a structured classroom. WLRP linguists, teachers, and volunteers have also created a dictionary, coloring and storybooks for children, board games, organized immersion camps, and offered innumerable community classes. A Wampanoag prophecy once related that during the seventh generation (which includes baird’s daughter who is the first native speaker of Wampanoag in more than a century), the language would return home to the people. The prophecy is today a reality due to determined efforts by Wampanoag people. Simon Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo) whose language is Keres, has said, “When we speak, we use language conceptually. We can’t be glib with our language. We cannot throw the beloved away.” For jessie little doe baird, Nitana Hicks, Tracy Kelly, and Melanie Roderick, and all Indigenous Peoples striving to renew usage of their ancient mother tongues, this observation resonates. To access information about the 12 tribal language programs, and to meet speakers, teachers, students, and advocates for their language revitalization efforts, go to: OurMotherTongues.org. To learn more about the Makepeace Productions and PBS/ITVS film, We Still Live Here—Âs Nutayuneân, watch clips, and to download a discussion guide edited by Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program visit: http://www.itvs.org/films/we-still-live-here/ engagement-resources
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 7
food for life
Forget the Pineapple Pizza; “Sunny” Ashley M. Fitzgerald
Daniel Anthony teaches Makanala'i Santiago (in pink shirt) and Pumehana Santiago (in brown shirt).
ishes described as “Hawaiian” can be spotted on menus around the world. From Georgia to Japan, restaurants offer “Hawaiian” burgers, barbeque, pizza, and even pasta. Although these dishes may have pineapples aplenty, authenticity is often absent; contrary to the culturally ignorant trend, putting pineapples on a plate does not magically make it more Hawaiian. Putting pa’i ‘ai on a plate might. But for the past couple of years, serving pa'i 'ai in a restaurant was actually illegal, as was selling it in the grocery store and peddling it at the farmers market. And for decades before—since about 1950—pa'i 'ai was unavailable to the public for purchase and consumption. So while the people of a rural village in a place as distant as Thailand could eat a “Hawaiian” pizza at the local pizza joint, Native Hawaiians living in Hawaii could not order a dish that has roots—both figurative and literal—in the culture and history of the islands. Pa'i 'ai (pronounced pah-ee-eye) is a byproduct of poi. Poi is produced by pounding the cooked corms of kalo—a root vegetable also known as taro–and adding water to create a glutinous paste. A descendant of the Sky Father and Earth Mother, kalo is believed to be the greatest life source of all foods and an ancestor of the Hawaiian people. According to Native Hawaiian custom, you must pay respect to Elders. So it follows that because kalo is linked to ancient ancestors, it is expected that no one will argue while a bowl of poi is uncovered; when poi is at the center of the table, there is respect for ancestors and celebration of family.
Photographs courtesy of Joe Diez
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So how did such a culinary and culturally significant staple become an outlaw in its own land? In 2009, the state Department of Health (DOH) deemed pa'i 'ai unsafe for public consumption. They shut down a pa'i 'ai booth at the farmers market and confiscated pa'i 'ai that had been sold to a local restaurant, on the assertion that food that is not prepared according to DOH codes cannot be sold to the public. On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable and consumerconscious argument; one that would be more believable if the DOH consistently maintained it. But they have already made exceptions to their rules for foods such as honey, sushi, and rare steaks. The DOH allows these products to be sold and served, provided they are labeled with a warning indicating that the risk involved in consuming them rests with the consumer. This means that while raw—and often foreign—items have remained on the menu, the local Native Hawaiian staple, pa'i 'ai, was removed. And so began the battle between Indigenous culture and state law. The DOH claimed that the methods and implements used for pounding pa'i 'ai violated DOH preparation guidelines. According to custom, pa'i 'ai is traditionally pounded at home. But according to the DOH, food items produced for public consumption must be prepared in a certified commercial kitchen. The DOH argued that the pohaku ku 'i vai—the porous stone used to pound the kalo—carried the risk of becoming a bacteria breeding ground. Native Hawaiians maintained that the stone has the potential to carry the mana—the spiritual power—of a former practitioner; bleaching a stone so sacred is naturally not an option. Pa’i ‘ai and its supporters proved they would not wait silently on the sidelines while sushi and steaks were served. Practitioners, cultural activists, community members, and a student from the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law took up the pa'i 'ai flag and took the issue to the legislature. The “Legalize Pa'i 'Ai” movement was born and, in early 2011, SB 101—commonly called “The Poi Bill”—was created. The Poi Bill was about much more than public consumption of hand-pounded taro. The bill carried the weight of an ancient tradition, raised questions of food security and food safety, and pushed policymakers to consider the culture and knowledge of the Native people of Hawaii. And for many, it also ignited an interest in learning to pound poi like the ancestors of these islands. As recently as 2010, you couldn’t buy pa'i 'ai in Hawaii; but you could learn to make it, thanks to practitioners like Daniel Anthony and Uncle Earl Kawaa. Both men teach workshops on all things kalo, from crafting the boards to cleaning the corm and of course, the proper way to pound pa'i 'ai. They are training a new generation of practitioners and raising a consciousness of kalo culture.
We’ll Have the Pa'i 'ai
Next generation preparing pa'i 'ai by pounding kalo on the papa ku'i 'ai board. Hailey Pohai Foster (left) and Matthew Kapu (right).
To say that people in Hawaii are appreciative of Daniel Anthony and Uncle Earl’s efforts is an understatement. “He is a gift,” Native Hawaiian David Kapu said of Daniel as we watched David’s son pounding pa'i 'ai at a community gathering in Daniel’s backyard. “He is upholding our history.” For years, the family pounding stone sat untouched in David’s home. David explained that not just anyone could pick up the stone that held the mana of his ancestors. “We don’t take it up for just any reason. It is very sacred. It has to be a very special situation, the right type of person.” That person, David discovered, was his own son, Matthew. “A few mystics mentioned that the time had come” for someone to take up the stone once again, David said. But he never told Matthew. “I didn’t mention it. I sat back and waited.” And in time, Matthew became interested on his own. David explained that his son heard the sound of pa'i 'ai pounding—the noise produced as practitioners strike the stone to the papa ku'i 'ai board—as they passed by Daniel’s home one day. When they found out that Daniel opens his home up to others interested in learning to pound, they signed up for a community pounding event. “And now here we are,” David said with a smile, as he glanced over at his son. Matthew kept his focus on the task, with the family stone in one hand and the half-pounded pa'i 'ai in front of him. “The time has come,” David said. “For my family and for the next generation.”
The time has also come for others to learn about the ancient tradition and enjoy the delicate taste of fresh, handpounded pa'i 'ai. On May 5, 2011, The Poi Bill was unanimously passed by the House and the Senate, legally exempting pa'i 'ai from certain DOH requirements regarding food safety, provided certain conditions are met. The conditions include certification of the kitchen where the pa'i 'ai is produced and the law requires that the DOH adopt the new rules no later than December 31, 2011. But folks like Daniel Anthony and restaurants like Sushi Ii have already begun putting pa'i 'ai back on menus and plates across the Aloha state and beyond. Anthony received his DOH certification and offers pa'i 'ai for purchase—at the Haleiwa farmers market on Oahu and through his website, Mana Ai—while Sushi Ii took almost immediate advantage of the availability and added “fried pa'i 'ai” to their menu. If you’ve never tried pa'i 'ai, you’ve never truly experienced Hawaiian cuisine. Now that pa'i 'ai has resumed its rightful place at the table, you can pound it, sell it, purchase it, and taste taro the way it was meant to be tasted: handpounded and fresh off the papa ku'i 'ai. — Sunny Ashley M. Fitzgerald is a writer living in Hawaii and a former Cultural Survival intern.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 9
rights in action
Voice of Conscience
Mick Dodson’s Place Amidst Australia’s Unfinished Business Erica Jaffe Redner
Mick Dodson has held wide-ranging positions since becoming the first Indigenous Australian to receive a law degree in 1974, most recently serving as Reconciliation Australia’s co-chair and Pacific region representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He directs the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at Australian National University, and is currently a visiting professor at Harvard. In 2009, he received the Australian of the Year award in recognition of his contributions to Indigenous Australians and his country.
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ispossession. Discrimination. The struggle for self-determination. These are the issues that weigh most heavily on Mick Dodson’s mind. He is, first and foremost, a Yawuru with traditional ties to Broome in Western Australia. It is through this identity that he understands his place in aboriginal society, and it in turn connects him to the land of his heritage, the plants and the animals in its midst, to the sea, and to his spirit or essence, his rai. His life, in contrast to the calm and constant rhythms of nature so valued by his people, has been marked by extraordinary twists and turns, conspiring to make him one of Australia’s most recognized voices on Indigenous issues. When asked to consider how childhood events inspired his work, he laughs gently. “I don’t know what inspired that, or whether it was inspired.” His smile fades. “I lost my parents at a young age. I was 10. And from then on pretty much, I had to look after myself, be independent.” Mick soon found himself over 2,000 miles from his birthplace, but he would not forget the suffering that existed there. “I saw people who were subjugated and dispossessed, people who were marginalized, isolated, people who were discriminated against and still are,” he recalls of his formative years. As he adjusted to life in a predominantly white boarding school with its share of racism, he drew the greatest strength from his own ability to be independent. It’s this same capacity for independence and self-determination—both individually and collectively— that he has championed so vigorously on behalf of his people and all Indigenous Australians. “The colonization hasn’t ended, it’s ongoing, it’s constant,” Mick stresses. A review of Australian Indigenous history reveals a shameful legacy in which repair efforts have only recently been made. Aboriginal groups occupied the Australian mainland for tens of thousands of years before British settlers laid claim to the continent in the late eighteenth century. Those who survived the ravage of European disease and gunfire were, with few exceptions, dispossessed of their land, and with it the nutritional, cultural, and spiritual resources that had ensured their individual and collective sustenance. Laws soon obstructed their right to marry, permitted the forced removal and assimilation of their children (the aptly-named stolen generations), and created reservations that Aborigines lived on and at times were transported between against their will. These policies continued into the 1960s. The ensuing period ushered in some hopeful signs, including the first boriginal university graduates and legislation providing
Aboriginal groups with varying degrees of reservation ownership. Most recently, Indigenous Australians have witnessed successes in ongoing reconciliation efforts, passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and the advent of Australia’s Indigenous elected body in 2011. But they have so much farther to go. Mick, who was heavily involved in the Declaration’s 20-year drafting process, notes that its passage “gave and still gives me some hope.” His country was one of only four to vote against it, but, Mick recalls, “we kept running at Australia in various ways.” Australia finally yielded in 2009, but, Mick emphasizes, “it’s [still] not comprehensively implemented, particularly with respect to rights of self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent . . . [which form its] . . . pillars.” Reflecting on Australia’s most immediate motivation for rejecting it, Mick is blunt. “They don’t want Aboriginal groups with the power to weed out development proposals. The mining industry generate[s] enormous income. . . . And they’re protecting them because they’re very powerful people.’ Mick acknowledges that the post-WWII rights movement has led to significant local breakthroughs around land rights, particularly the 1993 Native Title Act that enables Indigenous Australians to negotiate about the future of their traditional lands. But, Mick explains, “if we can’t agree we get arbitrated [and] there have only been two arbitrations in the history of native title . . . that have favored the Indigenous group [over] . . . the developer. Because the developers don’t respect the right to free, prior, and informed consent, they don’t respect our right to self-determination.” What use is the Declaration for Indigenous Australians to date, then? “Well,” he laughs, “there’s something you can use to beat the government over the head with. . . . It’s another weapon you have to use against them.” He also notes that Australia’s newly-elected Indigenous body is very focused on the human rights outlined in the Declaration. “The First National Congress workshopped various policy issues a few months back,” he reports. “I led one about self-determination and what that meant. They’re developing policy approaches to a broad range of issues and will advocate around them.” Mick also believes its plan to examine and apply the best practices of worldwide Indigenous groups to Australia will benefit from one of the Declaration’s “greatest achievements”— the unification of the international Indigenous caucus during its drafting. Just as the Congress is embarking on an exciting new path, so too is Mick taking up a new project that is especially close to his heart. “My own people, the Yawuru, we’ve had some satisfaction because we recently won a drawn-out court battle to win back a substantial portion of our traditional lands. . . . So that’s filled an emptiness for us in a way. . . . It doesn’t give us any . . . real self-determination. [But] [i]t’s going to help us.’ This is a chance, he says, to “become independent again and not have to rely on the government for anything, get
our people off welfare . . . [and out of] government housing.” “We have been forced to sell some of the land to get sufficient money to operate,” Mick continues. “We’ve done some deals . . . to help develop the [rest of it]. Now our plan in 20 years is to be the major landlord . . . in Broome. There are two cattle stations, [and one of them] . . . is probably the best [in the region]. . . . If we build the [right] foundations . . . we’ll be able to make use of the land as our economic base.” Mick is using much of his time at Harvard to examine how their plans comply with existing development principles and whether they’re the right foundation for their economic future and cultural development. While Australian policies have progressively given Indigenous Australians more opportunities, the healing process has really just begun. Australia is only now working to recognize Indigenous Australians in its Constitution and, hopefully, eliminate discriminatory clauses to which they’re still vulnerable. Similarly, the stolen generations waited eleven years for a formal apology following a 1997 National Inquiry report (co-authored by Mick) concluding that their forced removal and assimilation constituted genocide. Australia received international criticism for its inadequate response in 2000. Mick calls the 2008 apology “a step” in the process of confronting what many consider “unfinished business.” The other unfinished business is “a treaty that puts the modern sovereignty of Australia on a proper footing that respects . . . Aboriginal sovereignty.” “[T]he British . . . took the land away from us without our consent,” he says. “And that was wrong. . . . [T]hat issue has to be addressed, in a way that is satisfactory to both parties. Otherwise there will be no reconciliation.” In 1988, the Australian government affirmed its commitment to establishing a treaty. Yet two decades into reconciliation and over two centuries since their dispossession, a treaty has still failed to surface. “[We] deserve compensation for our dispossession and the two hundred plus years of colonization and the impact it’s had on us,” Mick asserts. “These are difficult truths but we need to deal with them. You can’t bury it in the sand and say, well, that’s all in the past. We’ve got to deal with it because it’s very much part of our lives and it’s being handed down through the generations. And like the stolen generations, the intergenerational impact is something you’ve got to sever.” Reflecting on these obstacles and the progress made in past years, Mick concludes generously, “I think most democratic nations strive to be better in just about anything they do, including how they treat their Indigenous populations. I think the pace with which they do that can be questioned, but I don’t think they’re deaf to the pleas we make.” — Erica Jaffe Redner is a research assistant at Harvard University and an intern at Cultural Survival.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 11
p r o t e c t i n g t h e e n v i r o nment
In Pursuit of Autonomy Danielle DeLuca In May 2011, Cultural Survival’s Global Response program launched a letter-writing campaign at the request of Indigenous Peoples of the Moskitia, Honduras, to halt the construction of a hydroelectric dam along the pristine Patuca River. Despite years of protest from local Indigenous Peoples and inter- national environmental groups, in January 2011 the Honduras government signed a contract with a Chinese company to start construction on the first of three dams that would have many irreversible consequences in the Moskitia, Central America’s most biologically diverse tropical wilderness. The ancestral lands and contemporary villages of four Indigenous Peoples—the Tawahka, Pech, Miskitu, and Garifuna—line the Patuca River, and these communities are fighting for their futures as dam construction gets underway. In July, Cultural Survival was invited to travel to the Moskitia to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Miskitu people’s governing body, MASTA (Moskitia Asia Takanka). As a Global Response Program associate based in our Guatemala office, I was eager to make the trip across the border into Honduras and the Moskitia. The trip would be a good opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with the Indigenous communities and learn more about the movement for Indigenous autonomy in the Moskitia, as well as to experience life along the beautiful Patuca River.
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ince the military coup that ousted center-left president Manuel Zelaya in 2009, Honduras has been a dangerous place for activists. In these two years, more than 100 political dissidents have been assassinated and another 200 have fled the country in fear for their lives. Poverty remains rampant at 80 percent, and many communities in rural areas lack voice and power while wealthy landowners, drug traffickers, and foreign corporations have free reign. The coup-supported president, Porfirio Lobo, took office promising to bring prosperity to the country by ‘normalizing’ foreign relations. One of his initiatives was to sign a contract with the Chinese company, Sinohydro, to build the long-protested Patuca III dam on the Patuca River in La Moskitia. Indigenous People and environmentalists had held off this project in its various incarnations for over a decade. But now, Sinohydro, infamous for its shoddy construction of the world’s largest dam, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China, is on-board. As Norvin Goff, president of MASTA, commented, “The current government is obsessed with bringing external investments into the country.” They are doing so without conducting proper environmental impact studies and without consulting the Indigenous Peoples that would be affected, as required by the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. After a 14-hour bus ride from Guatemala City to La Ceiba, Honduras, made longer by a protest blockading the GuatemalanHonduras border along the way, I finally boarded a small plane and an hour later arrived at the landing strip in dusty Puerto Lempira, the entryway and capital of the Moskitia region. I was surprised to find military presence greeting the arrival of passengers. I had already gone through airport security in La Ceiba, but upon arrival in Lempira, two men in army fatigues took my passport, wrote down my information, and questioned: What am I doing here? Whom do I represent? What are my interests in this region? I felt like asking them the same questions. I touched down in Ahuas, the “heart of MASTA”, hopping off the tiny, five-passenger plane into a dusty field, and followed a friendly neighbor towards the town center, where the conference was being held. Since I arrived a day early, I was able to witness the hustle and
Indigenous Peoples Oppose Dam Construction on the Patuca River in Honduras
Nora Trina Miranda, first female Miskita governor of the state of Gracias a Dios, which borders the state of Olancho, where construction of the Patuca III dam is planned. “The effects of a dam are like a hurricane”, she said. “Even though Gracias a Dios is not directly alongside the dam, the damages will be a detriment to us, and we are not prepared for it. The state of Honduras is obligated to consult us.” Photo by Helder Perez
Two Miskita girls took a break from their soccer game along the banks of the Patuca to pose for a photo. Not only their homes, but their language, Miskitu, is threatened by construction, which will open up the area to an influx of Ladino settlers and cattle ranchers. July 2011. Photo by Danielle DeLuca
View of La Moskitia, Honduras from above. July 2011. Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Norvin Goff is MASTA’s youngest president. He is seen as an inspiration to Indigenous youth. He urges: “MASTA is all of us. I am Miskitu, so I am MASTA. It won’t disappear, because it is inside all of us.” Photo by Helder Perez
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 13
p r o t e c t i n g t h e e n v i r o nment
Ahuas, Honduras: “Yes to Autonomy, No to Patuca III.” These were the main issues up for discussions at the 35th anniversary of MASTA. For Miskitu leaders like Norvin Goff, these two concepts are integrally tied. “A society that owns its own territory is able to live in peace, able to manage its own natural resources in accordance with its cosmovision [belief system].” Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Celebrating the 35th anniversary, the crowd dances to local Miskitu music, DJ’ed by a Puerto Lempira community radio station. A song written by the Moskitia’s musicians’ union, entitled Du Pali Do (“We hope so”) is a celebration of all the different languages that are spoken in the Moskitia. Photo by Helder Perez
Patuca River: A boy floats plantains downstream. Norvin Goff declares, “Dams on the Patuca mean ecocide and homicide. The fight for the Patuca is a fight for the survival of our people, from this generation to the next.” July 2011. Photo by Danielle DeLuca
bustle while everything was made ready. It seemed the entire community was pitching in to get the events up and running. With only one or two hotels in the town and plenty of people needing to be accommodated, organizers found every spare mattress and extra mosquito net, and local families pitched in to host out-of-towners. There are no restaurants or cafes in Ahuas, so three families were put in charge of cooking meals for those who had traveled far from home. A stage was being constructed in the middle of a field, and an outdoor kitchen was being set up by a group of teenage boys at the direction of their arguing mothers and aunts. The church lent its space, and the mayor loaned his sound system. Norvin Goff explained that MASTA is not a non-governmental organization. MASTA started as a social movement that over the past 35 years formed into a system of local governance for Miskutu people, and spread out among 368 communities throughout the Moskitia. The governing structure includes youth councils and councils of respected elders. “We are all MASTA,” the saying goes. “I am Miskitu, so I am MASTA.” The conference revolved around the central theme of Indigenous governance and territorial autonomy. For leaders of the movement, the fight against the Patuca III dam is part of a larger discourse of territorial autonomy—the right to manage their own natural resources. “Autonomy, for us, is a right of Indigenous Peoples,” said Goff. “We have to fight for our resources. To ensure the survival of our people from one generation to the next, we cannot adapt ourselves to a foreign political system where we become servants to the rich in the cities. Having our own territory will bring us peace.” It’s not a new concept in the Moskitia, but one that has developed over the past two decades, since the Miskitu of Nicaragua gained gained territorial autonomy in 1987 at the close of the Contra War. During the war, many Miskitu of northern Nicaragua sought refuge among their brothers and sisters in Honduras. Since that time, the relationship has remained strong. Members of YATAMA (Yapti Tasba Masraka Nani Aslatakanka, in Miskitu “Sons of Mother Earth”—an Indigenous political party of Nicaragua), Nicaragua’s Miskitu governance and players in the Contra War, traveled upriver to attend the MASTA anniversary. “The topic of autonomy is resurging now in Honduras ,” explained Adalberto Padilla, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “as a result of the government’s consistent failure to give Indigenous Peoples an answer to the poverty, inequality, and exclusion that they are experiencing. The ladino mono-culturalism c o n t i n ued o n pag e 15
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Patuca River: July 2011 Photo BY Helder Perez
that the government presents does not correspond to the reality that Indigenous Peoples are living in Honduras.” To deal with these problems, the Miskitu people have turned not to their government, but to MASTA, whose ultimate goal would be to create their own system of economy, education, and development, in accordance with their worldview, and in harmony with the environment. To begin the process of recognition from the state, the Miskitu are not starting from scratch. Although they want to create a unique model that will fit their needs in Honduras, they are looking to other Indigenous nations for inspiration and advice, including the Kuna of Panama, the state of Cauca, Colombia, and most intimately, the Miskitu just across the border in Nicaragua. In this research, they’ve learned key points about functional autonomy—the development of markets, bilingual education systems to promote literacy in Indigenous languages, and auto-demarcation of territory, a process in which they are currently engaging. The concept of autonomy is not envisioned just for the Miskitu, but is inclusive of four different Indigenous groups, who are all participating in the planning process. Lorenzo Tinglas, president of the Federation of Tawakha people, a neighboring tribe of the Miskitu, explained, “So many politicians have come, trying to compel us to accept things that are against the interests of Indigenous Peoples. In response, we are working hard to establish a Indigenous autonomy in the Moskitia, for the four Indigenous groups—Tawahka, Miskitu, Pech, y Garifuna.” If effective, autonomy would deny the state of Honduras the power to give concessions to foreign companies within the Moskitia without the free, prior, and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples. But the Miskitu and the Tawahka, are not waiting for autonomy to demand their right to free, prior, and informed consent. They are demanding this recognition right now in their fight to stop construction of the Patuca III dam. The Tawakha people live directly downstream from the Patuca III dam site and will be the most immediately and seriously affected. Tinglas lamented, “We know that neither the government nor the company themselves will be able to mitigate the damages that will be done to the environment.” That has been true in China where the same company, Sinohydro, built the Three Gorges Dam. The Chinese government has already spent $15.5 billion to study environmental problems that have occurred downstream. Hoping to avoid such a calamity on the Patuca, Tinglas is all the more determined to stop construction of the dam before it starts. He proposed three tiers of action: grassroots action taken by the communities, legal action, and, building on the first two, international pressure.
Don Francisco, who farms along the Patuca River, shows his crops. Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Sario Zelaya, Miskitu, leans out of the window of the church and conference center in Ahuas. Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Military in Puerto Lempira. The government plans to build a military base to protect the construction site of the Patuca III dam. Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Cultural Survival is taking the lead in exerting international pressure on Honduran officials to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Please see our campaign action alert at www.cs.org/ take-action and write a letter to the president of Honduras.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 15
p r o t e c t i n g t h e e n v i r o nment
A River Tale P r o t e c t ing a Ta wahk a Wa y o f Li f e Kendra McSweeney, Zoe Pearson, Sara Santiago, Ana Gabriela Dominguez
Travelers setting off up the Patuca River from Krausirpi in September, 2011. Photo by Edgardo Benitez Maclin 16 â€˘ www.cs.org
Doña Rufina Cardona picks her way barefoot to the riverbank. She bends down, cupping water in one hand and wetting her face, arms, and feet. It’s early. Mist rolls off the river and up the Patuca valley; it’s just possible to make out the rainforest-covered hills on the far bank. Children washing pots in the shallows greet her with respect in the Tawahka language: Mapiris yamni Kuka—Good morning Grandmother. She sits down on a massive drift log, part of it covered in fish scales, and looks over the river. A man is poling his family upstream in their dugout, rhythmically digging a long palanka into the gravelly bed. He’s not straining. It’s May—the end of the dry season— and the river is low. In their boat, an empty washtub indicates that the family is on its way to harvest ripe cacao from their floodplain orchard. They’ll crack the heavy pods and fill the tub with the sweet seeds that are currently selling for five Lempiras (25 US cents) a pound (wet). On the sandy shore near Rufina, Miskitu Indians finish re-loading Coke bottles and other stores onto their freight canoe. Then they push off, revving the outboard and pointing the prow towards Miskitu towns downstream. The motor’s wash sends waves up the shore.
t is a typical morning at the landin (boat landing) at Krausirpi. This is the capital of Tawahka territory, a 1,000-person town of stilted wooden houses clustered along the high bank of a meander along the middle reaches of the Patuca River, in the heart of eastern Honduras’ Moskitia region. Upstream are six more Tawahka villages, including Kungkungwas (‘howler monkey stream’), Kama-kasna (‘where iguanas wash their hands’), and Yapuwas (‘alligator stream’). Tawahka estimate their numbers at about 2,000, making them one of Honduras’ smallest Indigenous groups. Certainly they are the most remote. It has taken us four days to get here from the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa. Because the river is too low to navigate the headwater rapids, we had to go the long way around— to the Caribbean coast, then the slow ascent by motorized dugout up the meandering lower river. We have come to discuss with Tawahka and other residents of the Patuca the impending hydroelectric development of their river, set to begin this year with construction of an 104 MW dam known as “Patuca III.” We met first with Miskitu residents of the coastal town of Brus Laguna, where the proposed dam seems worlds away. But a web of canals link the lagoon—culturally, ecologically, and economically—to the Patuca. We heard serious concern about the dam. As Miskitu leader Norvin Goff explained: This Patuca, with all of its branches [distributaries]— it comes to feed the lagoons and wetlands as far as Brus. I tell the people of Brus [pop. 11,000], we are going to be affected! Because Brus’ economy is based on fishing. If the dam is built, shrimp production will go to hell. And another thing: all of that water coming down the Patuca, it is a barrier of fresh water, to keep the salt water from entering. So we need to be fighting this fight [against the dam]. There will be profound impacts on the 30,000 or more Miskitu living in communities along the lower reaches of the Patuca. Along the river’s annually replenished floodplains, Miskitu have always focused their subsistence farming of cassava, beans, rice, and plantains. The proposed dams would choke off the enriching sediment, slowly starving the downstream agricultural systems. A more immediate impact would come from the seasonally lower water tables predicted under a dammed flow regime. Miskitu teacher Kinke Wood tells us: “When the level of the river lowers the soil loses Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 17
p r o t e c t i n g t h e e n v i r o nment
From L-R: Sara Santiago, Lucio Sánchez, Ana Gabriela Dominguez, Edgardo Benitez Maclin, Kendra McSweeney at planned site of the Patuca III hydroelectric project, near Nueva Palestina, Olancho, Honduras. May 2011.
Tawahka Lucio Sánchez (foreground) and Celio Sánchez Hernandez (background) visit planned site of the Patuca III hydroelectric dam. May 2011. Photo by Sara Santiago
Photo by Zoe Pearson
Miskitu elder Atto Wood Ronas repairs river-going dugout in the coastal Miskitu town of Brus Laguna, where river navigation and inland agriculture remain vital to sustaining livelihoods. May 2011.
Tawahka Inosca Sánchez Rosa washes clothes in the Patuca River, Krausirpi May 2011. Photo by Sara Santiago
PHOTO BY SARA SANTIAGO
humidity. Beans and rice are affected. It’s hard planting rice knowing it’s going to dry up, or won’t even germinate.” Miskitu leaders are also incensed at the government’s complete lack of consultation with river dwellers about the project. Months after President ‘Pepe’ Lobo led a ground-breaking ceremony at the dam site in Olancho, river residents are still awaiting an official government visit notifying them of the government’s plans. “This is ‘free, prior and informed consent’!’’ laughs Goff bitterly. Indigenous organizations have repeatedly demanded more information, but are rebuffed or ignored. It was only through pressure on Inter-American Development Bank personnel that they discovered that an IDB-funded impact assessment was already underway, and that they would be contacted soon for their input. Meanwhile, pro-government newspapers are feeding the urban public a steady diet of cheery dam-related updates, including assertions that the “only impacts” of the dams will be on the 300 or so non-Indigenous families upstream from the dam who will have to be relocated. River dwellers know better. Their lives and livelihoods pulse with the river. A Miskitu teacher tells us: “We will bear the costs. We will see none of the benefits—not even electricity.” (True: Honduras intends to sell Patuca-generated energy to urban users and to Nicaragua.) We hear these opinions repeated in towns we visit on our way upriver—Ahuas, 18 • www.cs.org
Wampusirpi, Tukrun. But we are most keen to hear from the Tawahka people. By any measure, they are the group with the most to lose if Patuca III and two other dams planned for the Patuca’s main stem just miles from the edge of the Tawahka Asangni Biosphere Reserve, are built. And there is no question that they will have the most to lose. After two days traveling upriver, we arrive at the Tawahka village of Krausirpi and stay for a week. A priority for us is to check in with Doña Rufina. When one of us (McSweeney) lived in Krausirpi in the mid-1990s, every morning was marked by her dawn walk to the river. She is a Tawahka matriarch; reckoning by the ages of her direct descendants she is near 100. We’re told she’s frail now, losing her sight, her hearing. When we do get a chance to visit her, she’s sitting on the veranda of her daughter’s new house, trying to catch a breeze on this stifling afternoon. “Miriki!”* she yells in Miskitu, recognizing one of us. Taking a hand in hers and leans in and declares, “It’s too hot! My knees hurt! This house is too far from the river!” The Tawahka are river people. Their history can be read in the river, and the river’s in theirs. This is not a history of placid coexistence, but a dynamic one of constant adjustment, as Rufina’s life attests. She was born on the Río Wampú, a * Literally, ‘American.’ A generic term for (white) foreigners.
Disembarking at the canoe landing at the Tawahka village of Kungkungwas, May 2011. Photo by Kendra McSweeney
Tawahka Ismelda Sánchez Rosa and her cousin look from a motorized dugout at deforestation and settler households of the upper Patuca, Olancho. May 2011.
Tawahka matriarch Rufina Cardona with her daughter Elvira Aguero (in pink), granddaughter Azucena Salinas (in blue) and great-grandsons, Krausirpi, May 2011. Photo by Sara Santiago
Photo by Kendra McSweeney
major tributary of the Patuca, at a time when the Tawahka moved around more, spending months in fishing camps or hunting camps or gold-panning camps upriver. Remote as they were, the river tied them to distant economies. They tapped rubber to be processed in Akron, Ohio; they sold chicle latex to Wrigley’s chewing gum plant in Nicaragua. They grew bananas to be eaten in New Orleans. The ruins of one of the steamboats that plied the river during these eras lie exposed near the rapids Tawahka call Tima Bahna (‘shipwreck’—some 12 hours upstream from Krausirpi by motorized dugout). As products flowed out along the river, fortune-seekers flowed in. Rufina’s twin sons—born on a river beach at night—were the children of a mahogany- trading mestizo from the Honduran interior. One of her twins married a Nicaraguan Miskitu woman during the U.S.-backed war with the Sandinistas, when 10,000 Miskitu refugees flooded the Patuca valley. In limbo on the Patuca for 10 years, landless and hungry, the refugees hunted the last of the Patuca’s freshwater sharks. “Good riddance!” says Doña Rufina, “they ate hunting dogs.” We bring Rufina some cans of sardines in spicy sauce. Even better than river fish, she says. She has always ascribed her longevity to the local fish, but she hates the bland tilapia that have invaded the river. Some 20 years ago, this African fish escaped from aquaculture ponds in Olancho and have
been outcompeting the migratory cuyamel (Joturus pichardi) and other native fish ever since. A more serious invasion is the steady advance of Spanishspeaking mestizo settlers into the Patuca watershed. Converting rainforest to cattle pasture is the way they know best to add value to the land, and they do so with enormous energy. Forests that the Tawahka had used for centuries to make dugout canoes are now sun-baked fields. Doña Rufina marks the cultural impact of this advance in the growing use of Spanish with every new generation of her family. She stubbornly speaks to them all in Tawahka. The river, too, has been responding to the increased loss of its basin’s forest cover: it has become more “moody”, the Tawahka people say. When it rains now, the river floods more than anyone remembers; when it’s dry, it’s almost impossible to pry a flat-bottomed freight canoe along river reaches navigated by steamboats 80 years before. So while the majority of Tawahka territory remains forest-covered, the river’s character is shaped by the barren hills far upstream. The Tawahka must contend with the consequences. This was never more evident than during Hurricane Mitch, when the torrential rains that fell for three days over the Honduran interior all exited via the Patuca. Tawahka families lost virtually all of the multigenerational, spectacularly diverse agroforests on which they relied for money, medicines, and food. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 19
p r o t e c t i n g t h e e n v i r o nment cash with gold prices at historic highs—will end overnight, as the river’s gold-bearing sediment will settle out in the dam’s reservoir. Canoe-based trade and navigation will be severely curtailed. Tawahka grandfather Lucio Sánchez talked to us when we finally reached the site of the future dam at the end of our trip. When the river is very dry, the traders won’t come. We’ll have problems—how will we get a pound of salt, some cooking oil? I don’t want them to make this dam. When the river is dry, the Moskitia’s highway [the river] will disappear. Then real highways will come in then, with this dam. And we’ll lose our land.
Barren hills created for cattle out of rainforest by mestizo settlers, Upper Río Patuca, Olancho. May, 2011. Photo by Sara Santiago
Doña Rufina has seen and weathered it all. Collectively too, the Tawahka have consistently asserted their resilience and adaptability. In response to settler invasion, they shepherded a grassroots process of territorial protection resulting in the 1999 ratification of the Tawahka Asangni Biosphere Reserve; they now lead the development of a novel co-management plan. After Mitch laid bare the vulnerability of their river orientation, they rebuilt their homes—like Rufina’s— farther from the river. They also reorganized their patterns of land use to spread production out more efficiently and farther from the floodplain, turning instead to rich microenvironments along streams. They have responded to new cultural pressures with a long-standing prioritization of bilingual education in primary school—ensuring that Tawahka language and culture endure. Families are also transforming cacao harvests into high-school and college fees to ensure their children can acquire much-needed accounting, agronomy, or engineering skills. For all their capacity to adapt, Tawahka people tell us that the Patuca III dam may be too much to bear. Tawahka leader Lorenzo Tinglas says, “We are facing the slow extermination of Indigenous Peoples in the Moskitia. The destruction of the headwaters has been killing the river, slowly. I think with Patuca III, this dam will finalize the death of the Patuca River. It won’t just kill the river, but the people too.” It’s not hard to see how. If the river already runs so dry now, Tawahka anticipate little more than a trickle when the dams must retain water to generate energy. This will literally starve them of fish and river-dependent animals like turtle and iguana; it will quickly desiccate and slowly de-nutrify their agroforests. Gold panning—an important source of In response to this appeal, Cultural Survival has launched an international letter-writing campaign. To support the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Mosquitia and their efforts to protect the Patuca River, please see the Global Response campaign at www.cs.org/take-action.
20 • www.cs.org
Most observers agree that agricultural invasion of Tawahka lands will accelerate as indeminified families upriver move in the only direction where ‘land’ can still be found: downriver. Honduran construction workers who are brought in to work on the project may also make use of the new roads to invade Tawahka territory, once their work is done Rob Rogers, a geologist at the CSU-Stanislaus, is an expert on the Patuca River and familiar with other large-scale hydroelectric development projects in Honduras and elsewhere. He explains that there are ways for dams to be engineered to minimize downstream impacts (sediment routing, flow regimes). But knowing what he does of comparable dams, of the current political climate in Honduras, and the track record of ENEE (Honduras’ state-owned energy utility), his assessment is blunt. “If you don’t mitigate on the downstream effects, the Tawahka are history; the Miskitu will be toast in 10-20 years from now…. Anyone living downstream has a HIGH potential for getting screwed over.” The Tawahka are fighting against this dam, as they— together with Miskitu, mestizo, and Garifuna—have done before. After all, the Patuca is Honduras’ biggest river, and it has stoked the dreams of hydroelectric developers for over 40 years. In 1998, an American company planned to build ‘Patuca II’ on the edge of Tawahka territory. The project folded after a coordinated international campaign spearheaded by Tawahka and Miskitu; Hurricane Mitch helped too, by allowing the river to demonstrate its capacity for destruction. In 2008, Tawahka were a crucial part of the Plataforma para la Defensa del Río Patuca, which eventually convinced thenPresident ‘Mel’ Zelaya to suspend an earlier plan for Patuca III; Taiwanese backers later pulled out. On our last evening in Krausirpi, Tawahka leader Lorenzo Tinglas talks to us on a hill by the church. The mountains behind him glow electric green in the fading light. He points out that in 1998, the fight against Patuca II gained major momentum through the involvement of environmentalists worldwide. He sees global support as the only way to make the fight against Patuca III work. “From our position here, it’s hard to do much. But we hope that the international community will help us to protest this dam!” — Kendra McSweeney, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at Ohio State University. She can be reached at kendra.mcsweeney [at] gmail.com. Zoe Pearson and Sara Santiago are doctoral and undergraduate students, respectively, in OSU Geography. Ana Gabriela Dominguez is a Honduran student and micro-entrepreneur in Tegucigalpa.
B a z a a r Art i s t
Visit our newly redesigned Cultural Survival Bazaar webpage bazaar.cs.org to listen to Hawk Henries’ music, read about other artists and artisans, and see the upcoming schedule of bazaars.
he peaceful tones of Hawk Henries’ flute playing compel one to stop, listen, and reflect. His music touches people’s inner chords. Hawk Henries, a member of the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuck, a people Indigenous to what is now southern New England, has been building flutes and composing original music for over 20 years. What makes his flutes so unique is that each one is created from a single piece of wood, using only hand tools and fire. Henries had been listening to Native flute music for years, but the drive to make music himself did not emerge until adulthood. After a stint in the Navy, work with autistic children, and a move to Maine, Henries realized the flute was the tangible, yet ethereal instrument he needed to release his creative spirit. Henries’ family gave him his first flute, as a gift, and his exploration into the world of music began to unfold. The craft of making flutes came to Henries quite by accident. In an attempt to improve the sound of the flute his family had given him, he had succeeded in ruining it. After six months of fine-tuning and crafting, he had learned the fundamental knowledge of flute making, so he created a business from this new, self-taught skill. “I developed a deep sense of relationship with, and responsibility to, the flute and its power to remind us of our sacredness and our interconnection with everything in Creation. The flute’s voice calls to the Sacred in every person and aspect of Life, in ways that transcend words or normal consciousness. Everything is sacred. Every breath, word, action, thought is sacred. Washing dishes, going for a walk, cleaning the car; it’s all a part of the same whole,” says Henries. His mission is to bring health and peace to the world through the beautiful, airy, and serene resonance of flutes. “I think of instruments as important tools that can open doors because I think that they’re alive. They voice certain tones, and combinations of tones, that create vibrations that affect us physically. They create a space of openness or, at least, a willingness to be in that moment and be open. Together, they create a physical and social space where we can remember our connections to each other while exploring our differences as resources for new understanding and mutual awareness— instead of using them as weapons of divisiveness,” states Henries. Henries uses music to encourage common ground and dialogue between peoples of diverse cultures and beliefs; to promote the wellbeing of Eastern Woodland Native communities, and to constantly expand his vision and skills as a composer and flute player. “I feel that it’s an important time for people to look beyond the exteriors of what we look like and what we do, and try to recognize that Divineness lives within every person. To me, the greatest gift of the flute is its power as a tool for prayer and the healing that comes from remembering.” Henries faithfully continues to bring his flutes to life, year after year, for the patrons of Cultural Survival Bazaars. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 21
A Day in the Life of Hope Ross
Radio Doble Vía (Two Way Street) in the town of San Mateo, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala is one of the 85 locally owned and community-run radio stations which partners with Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Program. The work of this alternative form of communication is based on the promotion of values pertaining to the various Indigenous cultures that exist in Guatemala, as well as exercising one’s right to freedom of expression. Radio host Alexander Cifuentes in the radio booth of Doble Vía.
Throughout the course of eight years, Doble Vía has come to serve the communication needs of the whole San Mateo community from youth to adults, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The station has no ties to partisan or sectarian politics; according to their mission statement, everyone has the same rights to express their ideas, dreams, and hopes. Doble Vía is a community radio station that fosters the development of alternative social media in the pursuit of sustainable development and in building a more just and democratic society. It particularly serves the marginalized sectors of the San Mateo community whose values and needs are not represented in the mainstream ladino media.
VISION To build a community radio system whose priority is human development. We hope to do so by providing members of the community with the technical tools and technologies available to produce creative radio programs that entertain listeners and present a variety of ideas, and to encourage conservation of the environment in which we live.
MISSION Alexander Cifuentes and Fredy Rene Escobar Estrada broadcast live commentary just after a speech given by UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue.
To serve as a tool to help members of society express themselves freely. To be a place that promotes consensus, tolerance, dialogue, understanding, and cooperation among different sectors of the municipality.
WHY Doble Vía? To learn more about Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Project, visit: www.cs.org/grp. 22 • www.cs.org
Alternative communication in the community must be a two-way street, where the listener is the subject and no longer the object. Civic participation plays a very important part in this.
Radio volunteers, Merlita Ordoñez, Juana Hernandez, Yomara Elizabeth Paxtor Chavez, Francisca Elizabeth Oedoñez, Ruby Lopezh, Ana Elizabet Ordoñez break for lunch during a community radio conference in August 2011.
Radio Doble Vía All photos courtesy of Radio Dolbe Vía
A Typical Day in the Life of Doble Vía 5:30–7:30 AM Freddy Escobar hosts the show Buenos Días (Good Morning) to the music of the marimba and orchestra. The marimba, a musical instrument similar to a xylophone, is extremely popular in Guatemala, and is recognized as the national instrument of the country. Today, Freddy discusses traditions and customs of San Mateo. Talking about traditional aspects of Indigenous culture over the radio helps reinforce and inform listeners about the importance of maintaining these traditions. Monday through Friday Freddy addresses social issues ranging from child abuse and alcoholism to environmental pollution. The variety of topics discussed on this particular segment is representative of the even wider range of topics discussed by various community radio volunteers throughout the week. 7:00–9:00 AM The next segment of the day is hosted by Fredy Socop. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he plays music from orquestas chapinas. Chapin(a) is a slang term that Guatemalans use to describe themselves, thus “Chapinas orchestras” refers to orchestras typical of Guatemala. Throughout his time on the air, Fredy also addresses a range of subject matter, but today he is discussing a topic very significant in many Indigenous communities across the globe: mining and its impact. 9:00–11:00 AM Yomara Paxtor—host during this time from Monday to Wednesday—addresses an extremely important cultural question: what is identity? She discusses this topic and others while playing a musical variety. 11:00 AM–1:00 PM From Monday to Wednesday, Juana Hernández discusses civic participation and broadcasts marimba music. This segment reflects the importance of politics and the role political discussions play on these community radio stations. Not only does community radio reinforce and strengthen tradition, but they also encourage community participation. 1:00–2:00 PM Luis Alvarado hosts Teclas Morenas, and for the next hour speaks about children’s rights. Given the general history of discrimination against and marginalization of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala, discussions about human and civil rights on community radio is very common.
2:00–3:00 PM A second program hosted by Luis—Dosis Grupero—follows Teclas Morenas. In this segment, Luis discusses “sexuality with responsibility.” Public health messages are also common throughout the programming content, including educational information about reproductive health. In other programs, community radio volunteers address topics like obesity, drug, alcohol, and nicotine addiction, and sexually transmitted diseases. These discourses allow volunteers to inform the public about prominent health issues and provide support in dealing with such issues. 3:00–5:00 PM Pascual Domínguez discusses deforestation on Tardes Románticas (Romantic Afternoons). He hosts this program Monday through Thursday addressing issues facing the environment including conservation and threats posed by extractive industries, while playing romantic music. 5:00–7:00 PM Reina López plays a variety of music while discussing causes of armed conflict. Given the hostile nature of international relations, it is necessary to address these issues in a public forum. 7:00–9:00 PM This is the last program of the night, and the one that boasts the most musical variety throughout the week. On Wednesday, Alex Chojolan hosts Vía Clásica (The Classic Way), where he plays classic rock. Here, Doble Vía provides space for radio guests, including a teachers and health promoters. A few other nights a week, Doble Vía broadcasts religious programming, evangelical, Catholic, and Mayan spirituality programs and music. The incorporation of various religious programs is representative of the cultural diversity present in Guatemala. These community radio stations do not look to exclude programming content not directly related to the Indigenous population; they embrace the cultural reality of Guatemala.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 23
The Yuchi House A Storehouse of Living Treasure
nnoticed by most passers-by, there’s an old yellow house in Sapulpa, Oklahoma that is the meeting place of the world’s only living experts on a unique language and culture, called Yuchi. Something remarkable is going on inside the “Yuchi House”— native speakers of this ancient language are conversing and passing on their vast knowledge to younger learners. Only five elders who were raised as monolingual Yuchi speakers are living today. All of them are in their 80s and 90s. Henry Washburn, Josephine Keith, Maxine Barnett, Josephine Bigler, and Martha Squire have chosen to dedicate their last years to keeping the language alive by teaching Yuchi youth. They are motivated by a deep sense that they are the last keepers of an ancient way of being in the world, which will be lost forever if they do not act quickly. After millennia of Yuchi language speakers, the current elders are the last link to this storehouse of human knowledge and the eons of tradition, cultural practices, spiritual understandings, and unwritten history. Learners and elders alike realize that the only way to keep the language going is to transmit it face-to-face and breath-to-breath, as it was from mother to child.
The Yuchi House is home to a variety of language revitalization efforts put forth by the Yuchi community. Each morning, the house is filled with the fluent speech of elders and younger language bearers who are eager to learn. In the afternoons, the Yuchi House emits the laughter and foot- steps of over 30 children and youth who attend a daily afterschool program conducted in the language. Elder speakers are involved in the children’s program, however the younger language bearers do the primary teaching and management of the kids. This ‘triage’ system of language learning allows all generations to learn without exhausting the elders. The success of the program is due to the fact that Yuchi children are once again speaking the language, naturally and intuitively. For the first time in over 60 years, young children are once again getting in trouble in school for speaking Yuchi. When Taygann Spencer entered an English kindergarten she had already been learning Yuchi for a few years. When her new teacher tried to teach the color “red,” Taygann would only say “chathla” (red in Yuchi) because she did not know it in English. The teacher thought she was speaking Spanish and sent her to a special speech class for English-as-a-secondlanguage students. When her father, Yoney Spencer, explained that she is speaking Yuchi and he encourages it, the teacher replied that she doesn’t want her to speak Yuchi in class because she doesn’t know what she is saying. When Taygann asked her dad was what going on, he said, “They want you to speak English.” She asked, “What’s English, daddy?” To her, there was no linguistic dichotomy between Yuchi and English, she was just communicating in the only way she knew how. Each of the five elder speakers is gifted in different aspects of the Yuchi language. Some are more fluid storytellers, some are more precise in pronunciation or remember particular uses of a term. Notably, only one is male. K’asA Henry Washburn, 87, is the only male speaker among the elders living today. Because men and women speak differently in terms of pronouns, noun classes, and family terms, K’asA is the only person who can teach young men how to speak the male version of the Yuchi language. Yuchi men carry the important responsibility of giving tobacco to the deceased in order to reunite them with those who have gone before them. This ceremony can only be conducted in the language and fortunately over the past few years K’asA has been able to teach other Yuchi men how to properly carry out this ceremony.
“A Yuchi parent got up in church during the time for sharing and joyfully with tears in her eyes said that her daughter, Lillie Mae Wilson (age 3), started speaking to her in Yuchi during a visit to the state fair, about what she was seeing at the petting zoo area. This is an example of the kind of breakthroughs we are having after 70 years of no children speaking Yuchi.” 24 • www.cs.org
Martha Squire has taught us important aspects of the language. She happened to be in the Yuchi House the day we were talking about familial relations. She pointed out that when women speak about their Yuchi mothers or grandmothers, it’s proper to use an “honorific” pronoun instead of the typical Yuchi female pronouns. For example, instead of saying “my grandmother” “dElaha sAnû,” the proper way is “dElaha Ânû.” Martha is the last living person who could have taught us this socially and culturally important part of the language. We are continually uncovering new gems like this in our voyage to learn Yuchi and are constantly struck by how dull and vague English seems in comparison. As a former college student, I have been trained to use books, journals, or online resources to answer questions in the English language. As a student of the Yuchi language, there is no google search that can answer any question I have about Yuchi. Yuchi is a purely oral language with very little documentation. The elders are our only resource and are our “living encyclopedias.” The whole Yuchi world is contained within the minds and hearts of these five elders. If you find yourself driving by the Yuchi House someday, remember that it is a miraculous place where the seemingly impossible becomes possible—our once moribund language is breathing new life. Each day, we are in a race against time to glean new treasure from the minds of our elders while we still can. Truly, our elders are more precious than gold and the gifts they bear to us far exceed any tangible treasure. —Renee Grounds is a Yuchi language instructor.
To learn more about the Yuchi language and watch a video about the project, visit: www.cs.org/elp/yuchi.
Top Left: Fluent
The Yuchi Language The Yuchi language is an isolate, it is not related to any other language. Yuchi reflects concepts and perspectives that do not exist elsewhere. The sense of Yuchi community is so fundamental to Yuchi thought that the language always marks whether or not you are speaking about a Yuchi person by using different pronouns for Yuchis and non-Yuchis. If I say “I see a woman” I must say whether or not she is Yuchi, w@nt’A sAdE’nê (Yuchi) or w@nt’A wAdE’nê (non-Yuchi). There is no way to talk about someone in a generic sense. The “wA” pronoun refers to any non-Yuchi person, including men, women, animals, the Sun, moon, etc. It is very hard to think of humans as categorically different or superior to those called “animals” in European languages. We call ourselves szOyaha, “People of the Sun.” Our language has deep connections to the environment. Our physical relation to the earth is also reflected in the language. A speaker of Yuchi is always paying attention to the physical relationship between persons and objects and the earth. You can’t just say “there it is;” you must say whether “it” is standing, sitting, or lying in relation to the earth. If it’s an apple, “aKA-chE” (there it is-sitting); if it’s a river, “aKA- A” (there it is-lying). The pronouns also carry over to people: “KA dO chE” (I am here-sitting), “KA dE fa” (I am here-standing), and “KA dE A” (I am here-lying). In English we simply say “I am happy” but in Yuchi we say, “zAdOsh@nlA KAdOchE,” which in direct translation means “I am happy— I am here-sitting.”
elders teach younger learners at Yuchi House. Children participating in the afterschool program at Yuchi House.
Middle Left: Renée Grounds teaches children to play “I Spy” in Yuchi. Middle Right: Youth
participate in summer language camp at Yuchi House.
five fluent elders of the Yuchi language: Henry Washburn, Josephine Keith, Maxine Barnett, Josephine Bigler, and Martha Squire.
All photos courtesy of Yuchi Language Project
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2011 • 25
Barbara Sorensen and Jennifer Weston
n the United States, 70 of the remaining 139 Native American languages will disappear in the next five years unless immediate action is taken to teach these languages to younger tribal citizens. Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program is partnering with tribes to help develop the resources they need to teach their language to their children. The Sauk Language Department in Stroud, Oklahoma is one of our partners. Despite the loss of over 99 percent of their fluent speakers, the Sauk people have a long history of working to save their language—beginning in the early 1970s with communitybased language classes, and continuing with the 2004 founding of the Sauk Language Department. The Sauk Language Department has made great strides in developing and piloting its pre-school language curriculum, and has mobilized widespread community participation in language materials production, educational gatherings such as weekly adult classes and student “language bowl” competitions. A community-based course curriculum, a home study workbook, and a department website with short videos, Sauk audio phrases, games, and a downloadable concise Sauk dictionary have also been created. Daily meetings and recording sessions with Sauk speakers for the purposes of language acquisition, curriculum development, and expansion of an audio database are ongoing. Work on a teacher-training curriculum, a Sauk grammar workbook, and a Sauk pronunciation guide were also completed recently. Current efforts are focused on funding an expansion of the department’s intensive Master Apprentice team which pairs the community’s handful of fluent speakers with a core team of three second-language learners. Three Sauk community members involved with the Master Apprentice project, Chakîhkwê Katie Grant, Kîyokamekwa Orvena Gregory, and Kîwêwa Mosiah Bluecloud are 26 • www.cs.org
motivated to learn the Sauk language because they understand that the heart of every culture is its language. Language is a living, vibrant entity that holds a culture’s stories, history, and belief systems. Chakîhkwê, which means Little Woman in Sauk, studies psychology at Oklahoma State University. She works for the Sac and Fox language department and is an apprentice learning how to speak her Indigenous language. “There are only a handful of fluent Sauk speakers left,” Chakîhkwê says. “There are many people who don’t know how to speak Sauk, and some who can understand it when they hear it, but they can’t speak Sauk conversationally. Within 50 years, the language may be entirely gone if we don’t start learning our language as adults, and then teach it to our children and young people.” For many Indigenous people, learning a language that was rightfully theirs opens their eyes to their culture in ways they have never experienced before. “When I started learning Sauk,” Chakîhkwê says, “I began to realize who I was. I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do with my life. When I began speaking Sauk, I felt connected to my culture and felt doors opening that I didn’t think [were] there. I always struggled between doing cultural things and being a part of my culture, and running away from it. As I learned more of the language, I began talking to other Sac and Fox people and felt more accepted. By learning the language, I also feel as though I am honoring my ancestors and my great grandparents who had their language taken [from them]. Well, they stopped sending us to boarding schools. If we lose our language, they [the federal government] will finally win.” This deep emotional bond to their language is present in many of the core group of Sauk language learners, or apprentices, who have dedicated their careers to becoming fluent speakers of the language, and to developing a communitywide language immersion school. Kîyokamekwa, who is from the Bear Clan and whose name means ‘on a path,’ was recently elected as second chief of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. She says, “We’re having a resurgence of language revitalization. Growing up, my grandpas and my grandmas spoke their language and I heard it all the time. Once they passed away, I didn’t hear it anywhere else. We’re having a resurgence of
This was taken during the Sauk Language Department Master Apprentice trip to Tama in September, with Kîwêwa Mosiah Bluecloud teaching while Meskwaki Language Preservation Officer Yolanda Pushetonequa looks at language material.
Sauk Language Department : from left to right Kîyokamekwa Orvena Gregory, Neyêshi Christine Williamson, Chakîhkwê Katie Grant, and Kîwêwa Mosiah Bluecloud.
Sauk language learning in the classroom.
speakers and people who want to learn the language. Our people were at a point where there wasn’t even an awareness that we were losing our language. Now, we have people speaking more Sauk words than I ever heard growing up.” What is hard to express, is the joy at hearing their children speak the Sauk language. “I see that our young want to be Native,” Kîyokamekwa says. “They have self-identity and awareness. They have become more interested in everything that is connected to the language. I see them change and want to become who they were born to be. They want to sing their songs, give their speeches, present power points and write in our language. It’s unreal to see how far our language has come. One of the great things that we have now [is] a new orthography that is teachable to young people.” One of the Master Apprentice project’s achievements is implementing a team-based Master Apprentice learning program that has enabled significant acceleration of the pace of learning and fluency levels for second-language acquisition (SLA) teachers. This will lead to apprentices offering Sauk language instruction in local high schools, and to the department’s long-term goal of developing a tribally controlled Sauk immersion school to train new generations of fluent speakers. Of the myriad connections Indigenous Peoples the world over share, the loss of language is perhaps the most poignantly sad for first-language speakers. Yet, it is also this connection that brings them together to help one another. Kîwêwa Mosiah Blue Cloud is not Sauk, yet he is committed to Sauk language apprenticeship. Blue Cloud says, “The Sauk people, and the Mesquakis, all the Algonquin people, central Algonquians, have always been very close. I’m just trying to be the change that I want to see in the world, which for me, is to try to bring things back to the way they used to be. I believe that if it were 200 years ago, I would still be working [with] Mesquakis or Sauk people, helping them out. If our Indigenous languages were to cease to exist, so would our culture. We would just become like everybody else. We’d lose our cultural identity. It’s sad when somebody knows that they belong to something but they don’t know how to get connected to it.” Today, only five conversationally fluent Sauk speakers, all over the age of 70, survive. The Sauk language is in imminent danger of extinction unless the language is transmitted across
the wide gap between the eldest and youngest generations in the community. This can only be accomplished through an intensive Master Apprentice grassroots effort within the Sauk community that prepares second language learners as immersion teachers and language mentors to open a community-wide Sauk language immersion preschool. Three Sauk Language Department staff members have been funded for the past two years to serve as language apprentices to Sauk speakers for a minimum of 20 hours per week. By the end of the three-year project period, two apprentices will be capable of maintaining a Sauk immersion classroom environment, while one additional apprentice will be capable of serving as a “master” for new second language learners. This goal, though daunting, is not unattainable. Chakîhkwê, Kîyokamekwa, and Kîwêwa know this. They also know that their children are the future. Chakîhkwê says, “When the children start saying their colors or their animals in Sauk, it makes me realize that this is all worth it. Everything that I’m struggling through right now with language, all the hard days that I have, it’s worth it because I know in the future, our children won’t have to struggle like I did.”
All photos courtesy of The Sauk Language Department
To learn more about the Sauk language and watch a video about the project, visit: www.cs.org/elp/sauk.
Summer language immersion camp
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly December Winter 2011 • 27
Walking in Time Toward 2012 Mayan priests conduct a ceremony at the Mujb’ab’l Yol training center in San Mateo in April 2011 to celebrate the initiation of a series of training workshops at Cultural Survival’s network of pilot radio stations. It was held on the day of “Batz” which is a day of higher energies, and Batz supposed to represent “infinite time and unification.” Photo by Danielle DeLuca
he Mayan civilization is one of the cultures that expanded the studies of astronomy, architecture, mathematics, and the arts. Remnants of these studies remain enshrined in the ceremonial centers of Tikal, Palenque and Copan, among others. Some researchers say the Maya predicted the end of the world. What many find difficult to explain is how the Maya managed to study the movement of the heavens without present-day technology. In texts, codices, and a few murals in Palenque, what has been found is not the end of the world, but the culmination of a cycle. This cycle, lasting 5,200 years, ends December 21, 2012. This knowledge was acquired through the observation and study of the stars, moon, sun, comets, and planets. This allowed the Maya to develop their calendar upon discovery that the energy of the heavens influenced the way humankind and la Madre Tierra (Mother Earth) interacted. In Chilam Balam, a holy book from Chumayel, it was written that the Spaniards would come to America. The Maya also envisioned some of the changes that we are currently experiencing, such as societal disorder, the lack of respect for Mother Earth, the pollution that has induced accelerated climate change, and even the instability of the global economy. We must now realize that we are not the proprietors of the earth, but merely a part of it. Maintaining harmony with the earth is crucial for the conservation of the species. This is why the Indigenous Peoples of the world are raising their voices, demanding that industrialized countries—those responsible for most of the deterioration of our environment—stop the extraction of minerals, oil, and hydroelectricity in territories that do not belong to them. Indigenous Peoples warn that these practices do not benefit humankind, and that the continuation of these practices only encourages self-destruction. Indigenous Peoples have long been decrying that the drive for wealth and domination is being superimposed over Indigenous
28 • www.cs.org
communities, without foreseeing the harm it has on future generations. The 2012 cycle change the Mayans left embodied in their writings, points to a transformation in the thoughts and actions of humankind, such as the elimination of discrimination, racism, and the gap between the rich and poor. The writings encompassed positive changes like the cultivation of equal opportunities and gender equity, and the end of war between countries. We must manage to transform the materialistic and individualistic way of thinking to a more all-inclusive, Indigenous concept. To achieve this, we must look back to our past, as the Mayan people did. We must, as they did, use the past as a reference for understanding the present, and envisioning the future. — Cesar Gomez (Pocomam) is Content Production and Training Coordinator for Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Project.
The Mayan Calendar The calendar is made up of cycles that correspond to phases of the sun and moon’s rotation. The smallest cycle, one month, is made up of 20 days that represent different levels of energies. Thirteen repetitions of 20 days gives the lunar year of 260 days—the length of time for the moon to travel around the sun, as well as the human gestation period. The longest cycle that the Mayans’ contemplated is one that lasts 5,200 years, or 13 repetitions of 400 years, called Baktun. In 2012, we will be approaching the end of the current Baktun. December 21, 2012 is a mathematical calculation, based on astronomy, and physics, that indicates the end of a cycle. Spiritually, the change in cycles means a renewing of energies.
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Campaign Alert Cambodia This is Prey Lang, “Our Forest” in the language of Cambodia’s Kuy people. The Kuy are determined to protect Prey Lang against invading agro-industries and mining companies. A Kuy elder says, “Prey Lang is your forest, too. You can help save it.” To learn how, please read the Global Response campaign insert. In this International Year of Forests, let’s save this forest. Photo by Allan Michaud
The interconnectedness of languages, rivers, and forests