Cultural Survival Q
Securing the Future of Our Languages Investing in New Indigenous Language Speakers
Vol. 45, Issue 4 • DECember 2021 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
D EC e m b er 2 02 1 V olum e 4 5, Issue 4 Board of Directors president
Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i) Vice President
Steven Heim Clerk
Nicole Friederichs Valine Brown (Haida) Evelyn Arce Erickson (Muisca) Kate R. Finn (Osage) Laura Graham Stephen Marks Tui Shortland (Ma–ori) Jannie Staffansson (Saami) Stella Tamang (Tamang) FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival Headquarters 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org Cultural Survival Quarterly Executive Editor: Daisee Francour (Oneida) Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris (Powhatan-Pamunkey) Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com
F e at u r es
D e pa r t m e n t s
10 Restoring and Protecting Our Languages and Native Landscapes
Adriana Hernández Chos (Maya K’iche’) Indigenous languages are intrinsically connected and interdependent with the land.
Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i) Through technology, Indigenous language practitioners are finding ways of furthering the revival of their languages.
16 Making the Most of the Decade of Indigenous Languages for Indigenous Language Communities Richard A. Grounds (Yuchi and seminole) The UN Decade needs to focus on creating new Indigenous language speakers.
Copyright 2021 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. 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.
View writers’ guidelines at our website (www.cs.org) or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. 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 any reader offended by the omission.
18 Our Itǝnmǝn Language Cannot Be Separated From Our Land Tatiana Degai (Itelmen)
Community action is bearing results in the revitalization of Itelmen in Kamchatka, Russia.
20 Reclaiming the Forgotten Khoikhoi Language in South Africa
Climate Change Strengthening Our Ancestral Community Across the Seas
6 Women the World Must Hear Pertame Women Are Making Our Language Strong
8 Indigenous Knowledge I’m Mixtec but I Don’t Speak Mixtec
26 Keepers of the Earth Fund Grant Partner Spotlight Resguardo Indígena Inga San Miguel de la Castellana, Colombia
28 Staff Spotlight Monica Coc Magnusson (Q’eqchi Maya)
29 Bazaar Artist Julio Laja Chichicaxtle (Otomi)
Toroga Denver Breda (Khoikhoi) Returning to the ancestral Khoikhoi language brings healing to intergenerational trauma.
22 A Language in Crisis: Rohingya Mayyu Ali (Rohingya) Rohingya people strive to keep their language and culture alive in refugee camps.
24 Realistic Solutions to Creating Grassroots Fluency: N’syilxcn Sʔím̓laʔxʷ Michele Johnson (Syilx)
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2 In the News 4
14 A Precious Feather of the Native-Speaking Bird
Executive Director’s Message
The "language house" revitalization model brings hope to critically endangered languages.
Above: Halay Turning Heart (Yuchi and Seminole) was a panelist at Cultural Survival’s “Restoring and Protecting Our Languages and Native Landscapes” conference, see page 14. Image courtesy of the Yuchi Language Project.
Cover photo: Pertame apprentice Shania Armstrong telling stories in Pertame to children in the Hugh River, Central Australia (see page 6). Photo by Vanessa Farrelly.
Executiv e Director’S message
Our Future Is Tied to Indigenous Languages Dear Cultural Survival Community,
n January 1, 2022, the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032) will commence. It is an opportunity to shed light on the critical state of Indigenous languages and to bring resources to Indigenous communities’ efforts to revitalize and reclaim Indigenous languages to ensure the healing, well being, and prosperity of Indigenous communities. Cultural Survival is dedicating this issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly to uplifting the voices and work of Indigenous educators, practitioners, linguists, activists, journalists, and communicators, who, against all odds, with limited to no resources, are strengthening their mother tongues and creating new language speakers through various media platforms and tools. We are also pleased to share with you some of the outcomes of our three-day virtual conference, “Restoring and Protecting Our Native Languages and Landscapes,” which took place in October 2021. Although Indigenous Peoples make up 6.2 percent of the global population, we speak more than 4,000 of the world’s languages. Today, a third of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers left. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker; 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century. It is no coincidence that the world’s remaining biodiversity hotspots are home to 70 percent of all languages spoken on Earth. There is a fundamental connection between Indigenous languages and Traditional Knowledge and how they relate to biodiversity conservation. Indigenous communities have developed relationships and classification systems with, and in, the natural world that are intricate and demonstrate a deep understanding of their local environments. Our knowledge systems are embedded in traditional practices and reflected in Indigenous names and oral traditions. These invaluable understandings are at high risk of being lost when an Indigenous language disappears. Indigenous women, as you will read in this issue, are guardians of our Traditional
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival! Cultural Survival Staff Galina Angarova (Buryat), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Director of Programs Daisee Francour (Oneida), Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications Monica Coc Magnusson (Q’eqchi Maya), Director of Advocacy and Policy Verónica Aguilar (Mixtec), Program Assistant, Keepers of the Earth Fund Bryan Bixcul (Maya Tz’utujil), Executive Assistant
Knowledge and cultures, and play a vital role in the reclamation and revitalization of Indigenous languages. The role of Indigenous women in the transmission of Traditional Knowledge through ceremonies, medicinal plants, dances, arts, and proper relations to the land is often expressed through language and storytelling. Women’s leadership in the transmission of Indigenous languages to younger generations is crucial for the well being of Indigenous communities and the environment, and these efforts need to be recognized, supported, and resourced. Dr. Richard Grounds (Yuchi and Seminole) drives home the most important point: the most critical measure of language revitalization is the creation of new speakers, and this, along with securing adequate funding, needs to be the focus of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. Resources need to specifically target Indigenous-led, community-based language programs that are built on immersion. We hope you will join us in supporting Indigenous language revitalization and reclamation. Our nearly 50-year legacy of advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights is thanks to you, our community, who help make our work possible. Join us in shifting the narrative and resources to support Indigenous languages, solutions, and leadership to build a better world for us all. As we approach our 50th anniversary in 2022, we have an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 by June 1, 2022 for our #CS50 campaign. We are counting on you!
Jessie Cherofsky, Advocacy Program Researcher Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy & Development Manager Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Radio Program Coordinator Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Nati Garcia (Maya Mam), Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Coordinator Adriana Hernández (Maya K'iche'), Emerging Strategies Coordinator Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Community Media Program Coordinator Danae Laura, Bazaar Program Manager Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Rights Radio Program Manager Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López, (Mixe/Ayuuk ja’ay & Zapotec/Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Program Manager Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Teresita Orozco Mendoza, Community Media Training Coordinator Amparo Monzón (Maya K’iche), Program Assistant, Community Media & Indigenous Rights Radio Programs Cat Monzón (Maya K’iche’), Executive Assistant Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Community Media Program Coordinator Edson Krenak Naknanuk (Krenak), Lead on Brazil Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Media Coordinator Guadalupe Pastrana (Nahua), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Sócrates Vásquez (Ayuujk), Program Manager, Community Media Miranda Vitello, Development Coordinator Candy Williams, Human Resources Manager
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Jessica Aros Castro, Dorothea Bauer, Laura Harvey, Sarah Hume, Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Nathalie Martinez, Mariana Navarrete, Becca Small
Galina Angarova (Buryat) Executive Director
www.cs.org 2021 Statement of Ownership
2021 Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: 1. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 2. Publication Number: 0740-3291 3. Filing Date: September 19, 2021 4. Issue Frequency: Quarterly 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: Four 6. Annual Subscription Price: $45.00 7. Mailing Address of Publication: 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 8. Mailing Address of Publisher Headquarters: 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 9. Full Mailing Address and Complete Names of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor-Publisher: Cultural Survival, Inc. 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140, Editor/Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska, Cultural Survival, 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 10. Owner: Cultural Survival, Inc., 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 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: December 2021-Issue 45, Volume 4 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: Subscription to members a. Total Number of Copies: Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 2400; Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: 2400 b. Paid and/or Requested Circulation-1. Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541: 1300; 1200 2. Paid In-County Subscriptions: 280; 350 3. Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution: 400; 350 4. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS: 150; 160 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 2130; 2060 d. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution 1. Free or Nominal Rate Outside-County 50; 60 2. Free or Nominal Rate In-County : 40; 50 3. Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes 70; 60 4. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail 50; 30 e. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 210; 200 f. Total Distribution: 2340; 2260 g. Copies Not Distributed: 60; 140 h. Total: 2400; 2400 i. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 91; 91 16. This Statement of Ownership will be printed in the December 2021 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 2021 • 1
i n t he new s Canada: Haida Gwaii to Require Visitors Pledge August
Locals of Haidi Gwaii, an archipelago located in British Columbia, Canada, presented the Haida Gwaii Pledge, a new tourism management tool that asks visitors to make a promise to treat Haida Gwaii with respect and care.
Aotearoa/New Zealand: –ori Petition to Change Ma New Zealand’s Name September
The Ma–ori Party has launched a petition to change New Zealand’s official name to Aotearoa, the Te Reo Ma–ori language name for the country, and for the government to restore all original Te Reo Ma–ori place names across the nation by 2026.
U.S.: Passamaquoddy Tribe Reacquires Land September
The Passamaquoddy Tribe will soon regain control of the site of an ancient fishing village located at a remote lake in Meddybemps, Maine. The site was formerly used as a dumping ground for toxic military waste.
Canada: First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Observed September
On September 30, 2021, Canada held its first-ever observation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to commemorate the missing and murdered children from residential schools and honor the healing journey of residential school survivors.
U.S.: White Sands Discovery Confirms Early Human Activity September
Evidence of a set of preserved footprints in White Sands National Park in New Mexico, dating back 23,000 years, confirms human activity on the North American continent a full 10,000 years prior to the date previously acknowledged in the field of archaeology. 2 • www. cs. org
U.S.: President Biden Recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day October
President Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day for October 11, 2021, refocusing the federal holiday of Columbus Day toward recognition of Native Peoples.
U.S.: President Biden Restores Three National Monuments October
President Biden announced that he will restore environmental protections to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante national monuments in Utah, and a third marine monument off the New England coast.
Ecuador: Indigenous Peoples Sue to Halt Oil Development October
Indigenous communities from Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest have filed a lawsuit against the government to halt its plans for a massive expansion of oil and mining extraction in the region that endangers millions of acres of pristine and sacred land and the livelihood of Indigenous Nations.
Norway: Court Rules Wind Farms Harmful to Sámi October
Memorial for Indigenous children who died in the residential school system in Canada, Art Gallery, Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Nati Garcia.
an executive order formally supporting the U.S. Department of Interior investigation into the schools, to be done in consultation with the state’s Tribes.
Norway: Sámi Request Return of Sacred Drum October
The Sámi are asking for the return of a sacred drum expropriated by Denmark in 1691. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by Denmark and Norway, affirms their right to the historic artifact.
Australia: Land Returned to Eastern Kuku Yalanji Peoples
Two wind farms in western Norway are harming Sámi reindeer herders by encroaching on their pastures, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled. The Court also found that Traditional Sámi reindeer herding is a form of protected cultural practice.
U.S.: Wisconsin Governor Apologizes for Boarding Schools
Aotearoa/New Zealand: First Indigenous Woman Governor-General Sworn In
Tony Evers, governor of the State of Wisconsin, issued a formal apology for the state’s role in boarding schools for Native children at an Indigenous Peoples’ Day event. Evers also signed
The Daintree Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia, has been returned to Indigenous landowners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Peoples.
Dame Cindy Kiro, the first Ma–ori woman to be named New Zealand Governor-general, was formally sworn in to the largely ceremonial role in parliament on October 21.
Advocacy Updates U.S.: Boston Celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day October
After years of local advocacy by Indigenous organizations, acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey signed an executive order declaring the second Monday of October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and “to affirm the City’s commitment to reconciliation and support for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
U.S.: Boston Marathon Starts with Indigenous Acknowledgment October
At the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, the chairman of the Boston Athletic Association read a statement acknowledging that the marathon’s 26.2 miles carve a route through the homelands of Indigenous Peoples. “The B.A.A. is better understanding the trauma experienced over centuries by the Indigenous people who lived on these lands, and we will work with the federal and state recognized Tribes on this land acknowledgment.” The formal statement was a victory for activists who had rallied around the threat of the city’s largest event, which is usually held in April but rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, overtaking Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrations. The B.A.A apologized for the conflict and, in addition to the acknowledgement regarding the route of the race, also donated $20,000 for a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Newton. Two Indigenous runners, Patti Dillon (Mi’kmaq) and Ellison Brown (Narragansett), were featured on banners along the route.
U.S.: Harvard Moves to Divest Its Endowment from Fossil Fuels September
Following years of public pressure, Harvard University President, Lawrence S. Bacow, announced that the University would allow its remaining investments in the fossil fuel industry to expire, paving the way for it to eventually divest from the sector. The move marks a major development in a decade-long protest that has pitted student activists against university administrators and dominated campus politics for years. Bacow, who has publicly opposed divestment, stopped short of using the word “divest,” but said that “legacy investments” through third-party firms “are in runoff mode,” and called financial exposure to the fossil fuel industry
Cultural Survival’s Advocacy Program launches international campaigns in support of grassroots Indigenous movements as they put pressure on governments and corporations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of their communities.
“imprudent.” Fossil fuels make up less than two percent of the University’s endowment, but still represent close to $1 billion. Russia: Putin Silences Indigenous Activists October
Indigenous organizations in Russia, allied organizations, and Cultural Survival have released an Open Letter to the Putin Administration sounding an alarm about the growing intimidations and reprisals against Indigenous activists and rights defenders in Russia. These attacks are exemplified by the recent illegal detention of activist Andrei Danilov (Sámi) in the Murmansk region. Danilov, Director of the Sámi Heritage and Development Foundation, was detained on August 29, 2021, after he refused to present his belongings for inspection without witnesses. Danilov was detained for five days and charged with “failure to comply with the lawful order of a police officer.” His arrest is just one of the latest incidents in a series of acts of harassment against Indigenous activists and rights defenders in Russia in recent years. The Open Letter demands an end to intimidation and harassment of Indigenous activists and Indigenous rights defenders in the Russian Federation, and was signed by 116 organizations across the globe in solidarity. United Nations: COP 26 Results in Mixed Outcomes November
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 26) took place in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12. Indigenous Peoples represented the second-largest civil society delegation in attendance, second only to oil and gas lobbyists. The adopted Glasgow Climate Pact was the first climate deal to reduce coal, a leading contributor to climate change, and aims to set global warming limits to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While the lobbying efforts of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus resulted in getting language for the recognition of human rights and Indigenous rights in several provisions of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the language is very vague. Unfortunately, other proposals made by the Indigenous Peoples Caucus were not included.
Read more news at www.cs.org/latest.
Cultural CulturalSurvival SurvivalQuarterly Quarterly December December 2021 2021 • 3
cl i mat e ch a n g e
Strengthening Our Ancestral Community Across the Seas “We are crying for our land. We are crying for our land that has been destroyed. They dug out our land and the waste has been washed out to the sea. We cry for our land.”
“We Are Crying For Our Land: Stories From the Panguna Listening Project”
Ursula Rakova and Salote Soqo
T Ursula Rakova. Photo courtesy of Ursula Rakova.
he Carterets in Papua New Guinea is a coral atoll that is home to 3,000 people in 6 island communities living on land less than 3 meters above sea level. In the early 1990s, after several years of experiencing environmental changes, community Elders made a collective decision to relocate the Carteret Islanders to mainland Bougainville to save its people from rising seas and coastal erosion that was flooding their homes, destroying their food crops, and polluting their waters. Many people still live on the Carteret Islands today, while a few families have relocated to Tinputz, Bougainville. Ursula Rakova, from Hans Island in the Carterets, says that the circumstances are fragile for families back on the islands. “Presently, 430 family households remain in the Carterets, which has seen a significant increase in population from the last electoral commission count,” she says. “These islanders are struggling to meet the daily needs of their families, with the hardest hit families having an average number of seven children per family. I hold fear in me about the Islanders remaining on the Carterets, because if a sudden and severe king tide happens, the whole island will disappear and there is going to be a catastrophic genocide of Islanders being washed away without any trace. A whole generation of people will be lost.” Although separated by sea from Bougainville, the Carteret Islands are part of the political jurisdiction of the Autonomous Bougainville Government of Papua New Guinea (ABG). The ABG became autonomous in 2005 after a brutal decade-long civil war that began in 1988 when Indigenous landowners led an uprising over the mass environmental destruction caused by the Panguna copper and gold mine and inequitable distribution of the
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mine’s profits. Since Panguna’s inception in the 1970s, the mine generated more than $2 billion in revenue and released billions of metric tons of mining waste that seeped into the land, killing wildlife, polluting water supplies, and disrupting the lives of local communities. The government of Papua New Guinea sent police and military troops to stop the uprising and secure the mine. Neighboring villages were burnt, and villagers were forced into military-run detention camps where torture, rape, and extra-judicial killings were recorded. Almost 15,000 lives were lost during the war. Panguna was owned by the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, which abandoned the mine in 1999 and has since dodged responsibility for addressing the damages. More than 20 years later, living conditions are worsening. Mining waste continues to contaminate freshwater, cause destructive flooding and landslides, pollute water and food supplies, destroy sacred sites, and affect human health. This ongoing sociocultural and ecological devastation adds to the entrenched trauma faced by the people of Bougainville, who are still healing from the aftermath of the brutal conflict. In 2001, the Bougainville Peace Agreement officially marked the end of the conflict. The agreement outlined three key requirements: autonomy from Papua New Guinea, a referendum amongst Bougainvilleans, and the disposal of weapons. In 2019, Bougainvilleans overwhelmingly voted for independence. For the Carteret Islanders who have relocated to Bougainville, their journey to resettle in a new community devastated by war and ecological disaster has been filled with mixed emotions. “The issues that Carteret Islanders faced when we first came to Bougainville to secure land for relocation were very mixed, with many Islanders unwilling to come to the mainland,” Rakova says. “Land and the host community were seen as the enemies, and the Islanders were very much keeping to themselves for a while and not mixing with mainland people.” Tulele Peisa, a community-based organization managing relocation efforts for the residents of the Cateret Islands, together with another local non-government organization, facilitated post-
Rapidly eroding shoreline in Tinputz, Bougainville. Photo by Salote Soqo/UUSC.
relocation counseling sessions. Specialized farming skills training was conducted to get the relocated population to practice skills to sustain themselves since these families were used to being provided with food by the ABG when they were back in the islands and would no longer be fisherfolk. Villagers of Hans Island in the Carteret Islands after a A typical model of homes in Woroav, Tinputz, Today, much of their workshop to identify strategies on how to address food Bougainville, where 10 families have been relocated. lives are spent tending to shortages in the community. Photo by Ursula Rakova. Photo by Salote Soqo/UUSC. their family-designated blocks and toiling the land with their children, Rakova says. 100 bags of food items and planting materials to the Carterets With the help of the Catholic Diocese of Bougainville, to feed their families and relatives on the island who were Tulele Peisa has been able to secure approximately 40 acres unable to feed themselves due to a shortage of food. of land in Woroav, Tinputz. Ten families have relocated to While the newly relocated population are feeling at home Woroav and have been allocated one hectare of land per famin Tinputz, their ties to the Carterets are still strong. “The ily for cash crop farming and gardening. An additional three Carterets will always be home for us. Our identity, our spirihectares of land has been allocated for a mini-food forest, tuality, and cultural well being are tied back to our islands and one hectare has been allocated for additional housing. and our ancestral lands,” Rakova says. “But we have moved Tulele Peisa had initially requested 30 hectares (74 acres) to build a new life that is independent and vibrant, that is of land but has only been able to secure half of it. Tulele self-sustaining and prosperous, where we can continue to Peisa and the Catholic Diocese are currently in the process practice our culture, and where we do not have to worry that of discussing the outright purchase of the land. at any time a king tide or tsunami can come and wash over Rakova says that the relocated families now feel safe and us. We are at peace knowing that our families will come to welcomed in the host community due to the many integration visit us with fish and other smoked marine products to suband assimilation programs managed by Tulele Peisa in Tinputz. stitute our starch foods, and that we are also in a better “The families take part in many cultural ceremonies, church position to help them.” activities, and celebrations like the annual World Environ The plight of the Carteret Islanders is far from over. With ment Day and World Food Day, where women from the a young and growing population and the increasing threats relocation community celebrate with women from the host of rising seas on the island atoll, more assistance is urgently communities. Some of the highlights from last year were the needed to support the work that is being carried out by Rakova Carterets Tinputz Food Festival and the 16 Days of Activism and her people, who not only have to learn to live and sustain Against Gender-Based Violence. The women’s church groups themselves in a new home, but to live amongst relatives who are gearing up for these events again this year.” are healing from a tragic past while assisting those who remain Intermarriages between the host community and the reloback home. Tulele Peisa wishes to lift up the Unitarian Univercated families are another practice promoting harmonious salist Service Committee’s partner statement in response to relationships between the two groups. When there are deaths President Biden’s recent Executive Order relating to climate in the host community, women from the relocation site offer change and migration. “This statement encompasses and food to the deceased’s family and Tribal clan and spend time illustrates the heartfelt cries of my people without separating in their villages to mourn together. The relocated population us from our brothers and sisters around the world who are also take part in the politics of the area and hold an observer facing the same impacts of climate change,” says Rakova. status in the local level government of Taonita in Tinputz. “Climate change is an existential crisis to our people and our Rakova adds that there are trauma counseling sessions, peace culture, and a human rights approach must be central to any building, and farming skills training programs involving represponse, along with resources that support those who are resentatives from both the host community and relocated most affected.” population. Currently, the relocated families and other farmers are — Ursula Rakova is Executive Director of Tulele Peisa. Salote preparing for the upcoming Tinputz Cocoa Festival, which Soqo is Director of Advocacy, Global Displacement at the will attract more than 1,000 farmers across all of Bougainville Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and is a native of Fiji. to display their produce and cocoa farming skills. Awards will be given to the best farmers or farming groups. These efforts This article was written in collaboration with the Unitarian not only support the livelihoods of the relocated families, but Universalist Service Committee as part of a series highlighting are also helping people back in the Carteret Islands to survive. the resilience, wisdom, and power of Indigenous communities In June of this year, relocated families transported more than as they face the climate crisis. Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 5
women th e wo r ld m u st hear
Pertame rrweketya mapala ngketya nwernaka ilkerta nthurra mparema
Pertame Women Are Making Our Language Strong
Pertame family members during an Adult Language Class in Alice Springs. L-R: Brittany Swan, Sharlene Swan, Leeanne Swan, Kayla Dashwood, Michelle Swan, Abby-lee Dodd, Justyse Nandy, Auriel Swan, Shania Armstrong, Christobel Swan, Sumaiya Nandy, Samantha Armstrong, Diandra Armstrong, and Max King. Photo by Vanessa Farrelly.
Children playing hand- clapping games in Pertame as part of the Pertame Primary School program. Photo by Emmanuelle Clarke.
Vanessa Ngala Farrelly (Pertame Southern Arrernte)
ertame, or southern Arrernte, is an Indigenous Australian language that belongs to the country south of Alice Springs in central Australia. Pertame is a severely endangered language with only 10-20 Elders still with us who are fluent speakers. The grandparent and great grandparent generation of Pertame people grew up on their homelands speaking Pertame as their first language every day with their extended family together as one. Due to central Australia’s colonial history, Pertame is no longer the language spoken in the homes of most Pertame families or taught to the children as their first language. Without serious action, Pertame will be lost within the next generation. Our Pertame Language Revival Program aims to breathe life into our language again by growing the next generation of Pertame fluent speakers to create a culturally strong, connected, and thriving Pertame community. Our entire language program is run by strong Pertame women because
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we are the people who are raising the children, who are the future of our language. Our Pertame matriarch, Christobel Swan, is the backbone of our program. She has memories of receiving physical punishment at school for speaking Pertame, yet she never forgot her language. I would always hear her say, “why should I speak English? That’s not my language.” She was in the first group of Aboriginal interpreters in Australia, working for 30 years within the courts and hospitals and with the police to translate for Aboriginal people. She also co-created the first Pertame wordlist in the 1990s, when the linguistic world did not acknowledge Pertame as its own language. Today, at age 75, Swan is with us every day, gifting us our language. She was just awarded the prestigious honor of National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee Female Elder of the Year for 2021. My passion for language grew with my connection to Nana Chrissy. I grew up in Canberra and moved to Alice Springs when I was 20 years old. I would volunteer every week, joining my nana and a linguist as they worked to record the Pertame language. I was so thirsty to hear and learn my heritage language, which I never had exposure to growing up. Eventually I took on more responsibility over the language program, working with my auntie to run a few community language camps on our homeland. But I knew that four weekend-long camps a year were not enough to save our language. I knew something was missing.
In 2019, My nana and I were invited by Halay TurningHeart (Seminole and Yuchi), shUshpa Richard Grounds, and the Global Indigenous Language Caucus to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, where I attended their training on Master-Apprentice Programs. The Master-Apprentice Program (MAP) is a world-leading method of Indigenous language revival that was developed by Indigenous communities in California. The MAP model grows new fluent speakers through intensive oral immersion sessions with Elder speakers (the master) and adult learners (apprentices). Elders and apprentices are to spend 10–20 hours together each week, talking only in their Indigenous language, to recreate the natural intergenerational transmission that infants receive when acquiring their first language from their home environments. I took the knowledge I gained in New York back to our Pertame community, who were excited to try the program. My community instantly resonated with the program methodology so aligned with Pertame worldviews of knowing and teaching, and that valued Elder wisdom and breath-to-breath intergenerational knowledge transfer above all else. Our MAP team is made up of our Elder master, Nana Christobel Swan, and my two aunties, Auriel Swan and Leeanne Swan, my cousin, Samantha Armstrong, my niece, Shania Armstrong, and myself as the apprentices. As apprentices, every bit of Pertame we learn, we share with the younger generations. We run holiday programs and classes for Pertame children at two primary schools in Alice Springs and take the language back home to share it with the children in our households. The kids love seeing their family come into their school so they can learn their own language and culture.
Bringing Pertame Home
Eventually we noticed it was not enough to teach the children at school, only for them to go home to be surrounded by the colonial language again. We needed to bring Pertame home, where it belonged. We started a casual adult evening class in my auntie’s backyard to focus on teaching the mothers and nanas of our students a few key phrases that they could say every day in the household to their children. We started with phrases like, “Where are your shoes?” “Get up for school,” and “Go to bed.” The adult generation are mainly silent speakers, understanding Pertame but unable to reproduce it, so they are very familiar with all the phrases. I see a major healing process with the women as they finally give each other and themselves permission to put the language on their tongues, perfect or not. An important lesson I learnt in New York is that “the only way to speak your language wrong is to not speak it at all.” In Australia, our biggest challenge is securing enough funding required to do this work. The only government funding specifically for Indigenous languages that we can access are the Indigenous Languages and Arts Program grants. One of the program’s goals is to support the intergenerational transmission of Indigenous languages, but the criteria for what they fund is about producing a resource, something that they can hold in their hands and say, “look at what we did for your languages.” We have so much trouble trying to get the government to fund a project that focuses on creating a new fluent speaker, which is a much longer, more resource intensive process.
No one in Australia is talking about the creation of new fluent speakers, or what it actually means to reintroduce our languages as the spoken word of our communities and cultures. We are almost satisfied with giving our children some language knowledge and letting our Elders’ language fluency live in recordings and archives. There are 78 Australian languages in the same position as Pertame, with few fluent speakers all within the oldest generation. We cannot let our language bearers’ last precious moments with us be used up working with community outsiders, creating a dictionary. We have to think critically about how we can revive our intergenerational transmission before more of our languages fall asleep, and the answer is within our culture. Our languages were oral, passed down through the generations for more than 60,000 years. An app is not going to save us; our Elders will. The Australian government needs to recognize the crisis on their hands with the disappearance of our remaining languages and redirect resources towards language immersion and the concentrated effort of fluent speaker creation through breath-to-breath intergenerational language teaching. Every day I am blessed with the honor to sit down with my nana, my two aunties, cousin, and niece to hear my language in its full form. I learn my language through joy, jokes, laughter, gossip, frustration, fights, family, and mostly love. There is no place that our languages make more sense than in our community. Stale words on a page or an audio clip do not come close to the way I experience my language, and I want every Indigenous young person who still has their fluent speakers with them to experience this gift. I know that every moment we have in our Master-Apprentice sessions is fleeting. Our Elders will not be here forever, so I cherish every precious second. Whenever another Pertame Elder passes away, I feel a great loss. Many times I have been at funerals, mourning their loss and worrying for the future of our language. But then I hear that their great-great-greatgrandchild has just been born, and I know that we never really lose without gaining, and that our culture has a strong past and an equally strong future. Nwerna Pertama Relha Mapa Nwerna nhanhala kweta nema Nwernaka ngetya itya yerrema We are Pertame people We have always been here Our language will never die In every Pertame class we get the children to recite this chant in Pertame. When I ask them, “why will our language never die?”, they tell me, “because we are still speaking it.” Kela marra — Vanessa Ngala Farrelly (Pertame Southern Arrernte) is currently employed by the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education as the Pertame Research Officer within the Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics (CALL). She is also a Master’s research student within the Batchelor Institute Post-Graduate program and coordinates the Pertame Language Revival Program, the only active Master-Apprentice Program (MAP) in Australia. Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 7
indi geno u s k n ow le d g e
I’m Mixtec, but I Don’t Speak Mixtec...but I Am Learning Verónica Aguilar (left) with women from the Vega and Galindo families in San Juan Mixtepec, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Verónica Aguilar.
Verónica Aguilar (Mixtec, CS Staff)
was born and raised in Abasolo del Valle, Mexico, a community that is rapidly losing its language. Few people my age speak Mixtec, and I don’t know any children who speak it. Many have only partial knowledge of Mixtec; they understand it and do not speak it, either because they cannot, or because they do not dare due to fear or shame. The Spanish language education system, together with Mexico’s war against Indigenous Peoples through systemic discrimination, is very effective in silencing our languages, as language is a very prominent cultural trait. When I was a child, Mixtec was not spoken in my house so I could not learn it. It was the language of our grandparents and we heard it at their home, if we visited them. From the brief time I lived with them, I could only learn a few words. It didn’t help that in my community, Mixtec was not used in public and is still reserved for households. This story, which I share with a large part of my generation, is explained by the very special context of Abasolo. We are a migrant community that breathes and grows in the humid heat of the southern Veracruz jungle. Mixtecos in Veracruz? Yes, we live outside of the historically Mixtec territory, now fragmented and distributed among the states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Guerrero. Some 70 years ago, two Mixtec groups from Oaxaca met in the middle of the Veracruz jungle, machetes in hand, opening a gap where they had been promised a piece of land. They came together to establish a town. My grandparents were in one of those groups, the least numerous, made up of people from Santo Domingo Nuxaá, Oaxaca. In the harsh conditions of migration, we learned to face adversity with strength and community work, but we also stopped transmitting our language. Being outside our territory makes us more susceptible to losing it, because the number of people with whom one can speak and spaces of use decrease. In community spaces such as the assembly hall, we use Spanish because it is more practical, given the presence of families who speak other languages.
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At the age of 12, I recognized the value of our family language and I asked my grandfather, Telésforo Martínez, to teach me. A curious man with a passion for knowledge, he supported my initiative and began to teach me words, which I wrote down in a notebook. Back then we were unaware of the heated discussions surrounding Mixtec spelling, but it was enough that I understood my scribbles. Unfortunately, after a while, I also had to emigrate—that has always been our destiny—and I gave up my apprenticeship. “I am Mixtec, but I do not speak Mixtec” is a phrase that opens discussions in Mexico, where “Indigeneity” is evaluated based on the language. Many consider that if you don’t speak your Indigenous language, you are not Indigenous. Until recently, the Mexican State measured the number of Indigenous people in the country by counting the number of Indigenous language speakers. This is a tricky approach, since that same State has been openly fighting our languages and cultures to assimilate us. Although the method has changed in the official censuses, it has affected the way in which people evaluate us and in the way in which some of us evaluate ourselves. This is what happened to me: at 18, I still did not think I was Mixtec because I did not know the language. Mixtecos were my grandparents, maybe my mother, but not me. I returned to study Mixtec years later, living in a city far from my hometown. A teacher from my community taught me by video call once a week. However, I soon ran up against the limits faced by efforts to teach and learn minority languages like ours—lack of didactic materials, lack of linguistic studies, lack of advanced or long-term programs, among many other obstacles. I abandoned the dream of learning Mixtec for a while until one day, being already a majority language professional and with more economic autonomy, I decided that the best thing was to learn Mixtec in an immersive environment. I had three options: Abasolo, where I was born; Nuxaá, where my grandparents were born; or San Juan Mixtepec, the origin of the other founding group. I decided on the latter, mainly because of the strength that the language has among its people and because of the solid relationships it maintains with Abasolo.
I started saving so that I could live without working for six months. Sometimes it seemed very risky. I was worried about isolating myself professionally and academically. My friends asked me, what are you going to live on? Are you going to get used to it? I had been living in cities for almost 20 years and my career was going quite well. But I could no longer postpone that dream, which became even more urgent after the passing of my grandfather. The pandemic delayed my plans for a few weeks, but on September 19, 2020, I arrived in Mixtepec, which is in what has been Mixtec territory since long before Mexico existed. Some friends welcomed me into their home so that I could learn the language in the best possible way: in the warmth of the stove and of the family. This is how I started this third stage of my learning, visiting a home almost daily where three generations live in this language that had been denied to me. Those six months became an indefinite amount of time because, along with the language, I was embraced by community life. Understandably, learning methods, exposure time, and my availability have had their ups and downs. I now have a full-time job and struggle to maintain discipline in the long and complex process of acquiring a second language without teaching materials. But I am optimistic because I now understand more and I am overcoming my fears of speaking in Mixtec. I had the opportunity to ask myself many questions during my 20s about who I was and the languages I did not speak. Now, in my 30s, I know who I am and define my identity on my own terms. However, if I have to define myself by the linguistic parameters of the Mexican State, I have to do so with a negation: I am the one who does not speak, the daughter of the migrants. I’m Mixtec, but I don’t speak Mixtec. But I am going to regain my language, not to be officially recognized, not as an obligation, but as a right, the one that every child has to communicate with their grandparents in the language in which they best express their affection. According to the stereotype, Mixtecs are migrants. That is the history of my community, my family, and mine. But we do not migrate out of pleasure. We do so out of necessity, because the inequalities in this country and colonization have forced us to do so. In migration we already lost a lot, and one of our remaining treasures, the language, is in grave danger. We do not have the obligation to maintain it, but we do have the right. And for that right, many of us will be working and fighting for years to come.
Between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct, according to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Today, a third of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers left. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker; 50 to 90 percent of remaining languages are predicted to disappear by the next century unless action is taken now. The world’s remaining biodiversity hotspots are home to 70 percent of all languages spoken on Earth, showing strong geographic co-occurrence of Indigenous language speakers and biodiversity.
Founders of Abasolo del Valle circa 1951.
Photo courtesy of the historical archive of the community.
Welcoming visitors from Abasolo del Valle in San Juan Mixtepec during a patronal feast in 2019. Verónica Aguilar and her aunt on a street in Abasolo.
Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 9
Restoring and Protecting Our Languages and Native Landscapes Adriana Hernández Chos (Maya K’iche’, CS Staff)
was born and raised in the western highlands of Guatemala in Xelajuj No’j. Five years ago, I embarked on a journey to learn my ancestral language as an adult. This journey has been difficult due to the disappearance of the K’iche’ language in the second generation of my family. My grandmother’s first mother tongue was K’iche’, and while my mother is able to understand it, she is unable to speak it. I am unable to understand or speak the language. I remember having moments of confusion as a child when my grandmother, Abuelita Tonita, would not speak her native language in public. Instead, she would speak her ancestral language only in private spaces where she felt comfortable and safe. I remember listening to her speak K’iche’ with my great aunt, and it always confused me because she only talked to me in Spanish. My mother explained to me that during the 1960s, my grandmother was told to speak to her children only in “Castellano,” the primary language spoken at the schools, to get a better job and become “generally better.” My Abuelita Tonita stopped transmitting the language not because she wanted to, but because of colonial development and economic practices and the education system in Guatemala that forced her to do so. In Maya cosmovision, corn has a sacred meaning. Corn is life and sustains our life. Photo by Adriana Hernández.
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When I decided to learn my ancestral language at the age of 25, I faced some challenges that I imagine are common for most new learners. I felt I was not making any progress as I encountered overwhelming and complex grammatical rules. I had three different teachers who helped me understand the grammar and the structure of the language, but I am not anywhere near a fluent speaker; I feel it is because I am missing the immersion component. I need to be surrounded by the beauty of the sounds and the practical connection of the language with the environment. During the pandemic, for the third time, I went back to classes via Zoom. The whole process was challenging and strange due to long hours of learning in a virtual space, the isolation of the pandemic, and learning the ancestral language through Spanish. Not only does being surrounded by the language make a difference, but so does investing a good amount of time each day. That’s the rule: there is no progress without investing an adequate amount of time. I am still here today, recognizing what aspects I need to focus on to continue my journey and bring back the knowledge from my ancestors. I have concluded that I need to spend more time with fluent speakers and Elders and invest an adequate amount of time every day. It is a shame that it has taken me until now to realize how I could have learned more effectively when my family’s last two fluent speakers were still
Mayan ceremonies at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Photo by Jorge Estuardo de León.
with us. But I am still here, and it is never too late to learn the language from the heart. Today, my mission is to reclaim the spaces where my ancestors did not feel safe speaking their language, to own my language and responsibly transmit it.
Restoring and Protecting Our Native Languages and Landscapes
On October 5–7, 2021, Cultural Survival held a three-day virtual conference, “Restoring and Protecting Our Native Languages and Landscapes,” gathering 31 Indigenous language revitalization experts and practitioners from Russia, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Kenya, South Africa, and Australia. Three themes framed the event: Indigenous Languages as Con- tributors to the Preservation of Biodiversity; Reclaiming and Strengthening our Indigenous Languages Beyond Our Homes: Methodologies and Practical Approaches; and Indigenous Women and the Power of Community Storytelling. The goal of the conference was to share knowledge and practical approaches around language revitalization efforts by Indigenous Peoples. After listening to the stories of Indigenous language warriors’ successes and struggles to keep their languages alive, I was inspired by the creative ways communities address their language revitalization challenges. I heard stories of how non-fluent adults can become fluent with a combination of financial and non-financial support; a well developed and culturally appropriate methodology; complementary resources such as digital media and written materials; and of course, the most important strategy— full immersion in the language. During the presentations, Abuela Tonita’s words resonated in my mind when she spoke her language and referred to the meaning of the clouds and their shapes, the color of the sky, the days for harvesting, the meaning and use of medicinal plants, and the respect for corn and water. I remember her words very well, “we need to take care of what the land gives us. The land is our mother. One day there will not be water, and the children will have to face the consequences of scarcity.” Climate change impacts, including the lack of rains, have caused the loss of the families’ harvests, which means food shortages and higher prices. These factors, combined with the scarcity of water, could mean impending food crises for Indigenous families. When I think about the risk of Traditional Knowledge not being passed down to new generations, I worry about how life and harmony among living creatures will continue. The languages are part of a whole. We cannot speak of the overall well being of Indigenous Peoples if our languages are not included. In the words of Pertame language activist Vanessa Farrelly (Pertame Southern Arrernte), “the language is the voice of the land.” When we talk about the connection of Indigenous Peoples and the land, we talk about a whole living system that is interconnected and interdependent. This reciprocal relationship has a regenerative component. There needs to be a respectful way to interact with the land because the land feeds us and gives us life. Traditional Ecological Knowledge contains valuable techniques and solutions to address, adapt, and mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss such as wildfires, floods,
No English is allowed to be spoken at the Yuchi House in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of the Yuchi Language Project.
Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 11
droughts, changes in animal behavior, and other alterations experienced on our lands and territories. This knowledge is intrinsically embedded and transmitted through the language, and, as Jeannette Armstrong (Syilx Okanagan), Associate Professor in Indigenous Studies and Canada Research Chair, pointed out during the conference, “when the knowledge is lost, the consequences are irreversible.” Indigenous Peoples have adapted their lifestyle to respect the environment, preserving the forests, rivers, and lakes. The respect and caring for the land is especially transmitted through ceremonies, according to Marcus Briggs-Clouds (Maskoke), who emphasized the importance of talking to the land. When Indigenous Peoples care and preserve the environment, this relation upholds the life of flora and fauna species. “Language becomes the bridge in which Indigenous Peoples transmit the responsibility that comes with the knowledge,” said Antonio Q’apaj Conde (Aymara).
to speak their language and their cultures; imposition and influence of official languages; lack of funding to support language programming and gatherings; false thinking that there is no “economic value” in the language; few Elder native speakers; colonialism, extractivism, and trauma; Western curriculum and methodologies; misinformation within communities; lack of financial support by funders; lack of engagement from youth; and spending time on activities with an academic focus rather than those related to language vitality. Despite the challenges that were named, practitioners and experts in the field of Indigenous rights and languages revitalization shared inspiring stories demonstrating the urgency of taking action to recognize languages not only as part of the communication processes, but as an essential component of cultural identity, spirituality and cosmovision, and Traditional Knowledge systems of Indigenous Peoples. I believe that we as Indigenous Peoples must recognize the root causes of the loss of our languages. We need to work towards using our languages in the spaces that we have been denied for decades. We need to recognize the value of the languages and cultures and how our millennia-old Traditional Knowledge is embedded within these. And we must take immediate action to hold governments, State institutions, and policymakers accountable for upholding our rights, including the right to speak our languages in daily life spaces, especially in schools.
Solutions by Indigenous Peoples
Rosa Palomino (Aymara), Vice President of the Network of Indigenous Communicators of Peru, Host of "Wiñay Panqara" radio program, and conference participant, conducts an interview. Photo courtesy of Rosa Palomino.
Challenges in Keeping Our Languages Alive
Prior to the conference, Cultural Survival conducted a survey that gathered input from 78 people attending from the following Indigenous Nations: Maya K’iche’, Tohono O’odham, Secwépemc, Waî Waî, Batwa, Nyindu, Guna, Hawaiian, Selkup, Maya Pocomchi, Dodoth, Ainu, Buryat, Maya Mam, Yoruba, Taino, Maasai, Stockbridge-Munsee, Lunaape, Mixtec, Yamaye Guani - Jamaica Hummingbird Tribe, Hñähñu, Rohingya, Hopi, Ngunnawal, Ngambri, Ngarigu, Moorish American, Oromo, Gunditjmara, Sunuwar, Tamoo, iTaukei, Chorotega, Dine, Sepik, Maya, Nama, Maya Kaqchikel, Syilx, Southern Ute, Chickaloon, Binnizá, Komi, Ayuuk, Tharu, Shoshone, Tŝilhqot’in, Xicanx, Guernsey, Cherokee, Garifuna, Gujjar, Chicana-Apache, Musqueam, Tunica-Biloxi, and Carpatho. These attendees shared some of the barriers affecting their communities and their efforts to strengthen and revitalize their languages. Some of these include the relocation of communities to new territories; lack of information that enables them to ensure implementation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights 12 • www. cs. org
Full immersion strategy Indigenous Peoples globally create culturally appropriate solutions to keep their languages alive that are connected with their cosmovision. During the conference, I reflected on how complex other revitalization processes are when only a few Elder native speakers are still living. One good example of an Indigenous solution aligning with their cosmovision is the immersion methodology of the Yuchi Language Project in Oklahoma. This way of learning the language is quite similar to how we learn languages as babies. We listen, and with time we understand. No one explains all the grammatical rules that are usually taught in the Western education system. Understanding the grammar and structure of the language can be helpful, but most important is learning the language from the heart, what the sounds make us feel, and the connection that the language creates with what is around us. The relationship between a mother and her children is reflected in the language. Indigenous women, as life-givers, have a tremendous role in transmitting the language from the womb. Halay Turning Heart (Yuchi, Seminole) shared how she assumed the responsibility of transmitting her Yuchi language to her children. Now her children are the first speakers of Yuchi as their first language in three generations. Like she said, “our ancestors have brought our language this far, and now it is up to us to bring it home.” Master-Apprentice Model In a discussion of the Master-Apprentice Program, Farrelly explained how, due to the high level of endangerment of the Pertame language in Central Australia, it was necessary to recreate another generation of adult speakers with the support of Elders of the Pertame language. She expressed
Photo courtesy of Valentina Sovkina.
the importance of aligning her Indigenous values to the methodology to revitalize the Pertame language. “We’ve got to think back to how it was and our oral traditions. We just need to keep spreading the message and wake people up from thinking about it in Western ways,” she said. Learning a language when you are an adult can be quite challenging, especially when you are in the intermediate level phase (when you can understand but are unable to have a highly fluent conversation). Michele Johnson, Ph.D. (Okanagan) from the Syilx Language House, highlighted the importance of dedicating time to learning a language. “You can’t expect people to revitalize the language on evenings and weekends,” she said. In cases where only a few Elders are teaching the language, there is a sense of urgency in investing more financial resources. By providing financial support to the adult learners, they will be able to invest more time doing the sacred work of preserving the language rather than being outside of the community for a full time job. Multilingual Media and Digital Strategies During the conference, it was emphasized that the immersion strategy is one of the most effective solutions to revitalize languages. Digital media is a powerful tool that can contribute to listening, reading, and practicing Indigenous languages more often. Community media is an effective mechanism to transmit languages and knowledge, especially when mainstream media only broadcasts content in the country’s official language. Socorro Cauich (Maya Yucatan), from Radio Yuyum, said, “There are many initiatives that do things in the Maya language related to language and culture, but if we do not get the word out, they will not reach those youth who are in those technological spaces.” The proliferation of Indigenous languages in digital media must accelerate as the dominance of the English language in science and technology continues. The Ki’kotemal TV project is dedicated to reaching the children of migrants who have been forced to leave their communities and did not learn their ancestral language. Vianna Gonzalez (Maya K’iche’) explained that the project utilizes social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Soundcloud, which has been very useful to upload content. Using technology to reach an audience that has had to leave their community and are not able to be fully immersed in the language can contribute to continuing contact with the language.
Generations of Saami reindeer herders in Russia. Valentina Sovkina (Saami), conference panelist, produced the film "Tsyya nita/Well Done Girl,” about a woman who revitalized her native language by speaking it with her granddaughters.
International Decade of Indigenous Languages
Although the steps to revitalize the languages are complex and require both financial and non-financial resources, at Cultural Survival, we are hopeful that “Restoring and Protecting our Native Languages and Landscapes” has become an inflection point to start a conversation in the upcoming Decade of Indigenous Languages with a focus on action. We do not want this decade to be another decade spent analyzing the issue around language loss, but rather to uplift and fund those communities doing the work and create more immediate results. To this end, Cultural Survival advocates for a rights-based approach in which the communities doing the work have a say in the design and implementation of their language revitalization solutions. We, as Indigenous Peoples, have the responsibility to learn our languages and to transmit the knowledge that comes with them to our future generations. We have the right to speak our languages at school and in any public space. The revitalization of languages will be actionable when the solutions to protect, maintain, and strengthen Indigenous languages come from the Indigenous communities themselves and according to their values and cosmovisions. We are hopeful that more funding will be dedicated to language revitalization work, primarily focused on grassroots initiatives. The priority should be creating new fluent speakers and speaking our languages again in public spaces. It is challenging to fundraise around the issue of creating new fluent adult speakers, as funders are currently incentivized to support programs that produce dictionaries and other written or audiovisual materials. These complementary tools can help improve the use and understanding of languages as systems; however, in order to revitalize a language, it needs to be spoken. For those who had to migrate and leave their communities, those who were part of boarding schools and were forced to stop speaking their languages, those who were told not to speak their language, the call is to leave fear aside. It is never too late to start the journey of relearning your Indigenous language. Some days you will feel that you are getting nowhere, but deep in your heart, you know you are doing something meaningful. Valentina Sovkina (Saami) expressed this idea best: “the most important thing is not to be afraid. There is an opportunity to learn. Our languages will live if you and your children can hear it and can speak it.” Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 13
a precious feather of the native-speaking bird ’Uki’uki is a native member of the lily family in Hawai‘i. Photo by Kaimana Barcarse.
Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i)
s a bird chewing down its food to be able to feed its young from mouth to mouth, so too are Native languages fed from the mouths of parents and Elders to the mouths of our next generations. As the Mauli moon phase rose in the 10-day lunar week of Hōʻemi, in the lunar month of Māhoehope, to the setting of the Hilo moon in the week of Hoʻonui at the start of the lunar month of ʻIkuwā, a tree whose seeds were planted decades ago by the Cultural Survival family branched forth. This is an inviting tree, a tree that calls out to the many Native birds from around the world to find rest on its branches, and that welcoming call was answered. Through the wonders of technology, Native birds from the various corners of the Earth came together with their rich and beautiful voices to create exquisite songs for this newly appointed UN Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032). This tree manifested itself in the form of the online conference entitled “Restoring our Native Languages and Landscapes.” These many manu (birds) flocked to this virtual tree from all corners of the world, from Africa to Alaska, from Turtle Island to Russia, from the vast and wide Pacific Ocean to the land of the Sampi, from Australia to South and Central America, and many places in between. The COVID-19 pandemic has been frightening, and for our Native Peoples the threat is tenfold, or even a hundredfold, as we remember how our Peoples have fared during pandemics of the past. In spite of the lingering threat, Indigenous Peoples have taken a hold of, and are ruling, the technologies of this day. Through the marvels of technology and the access to the internet, Natives are finding innovative
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ways of furthering the revival of their languages, such as this online conference, to share information and stories, successes and obstacles, and to learn from and support each other. On the first day, as the Mauli moon rose, the conference opened with spirit, chants, prayers, and acknowledgment of the lands we currently occupy and the lands where the bones of our ancestors find rest. The day focused on the connections and contributions of Indigenous languages to preserving biodiversity. The first panel explained the state of Indigenous languages as a measure of Indigenous rights already realized, and those yet to be. The second panel discussed how Indigenous languages and knowledge systems need to be at the center of biodiversity conservation. On the second day, the last day of the lunar month, as the Muku moon rose, participants dove in with the force of the mumuku winds to discuss strengthening language outside of the contexts of homes and schools. Methodologies and pathways to strengthen Native languages in their own native lands were shared to re-elevate these languages to being the rightful dominant and official languages of their homelands. For the second half of the day, space was made for an interactive session where language speakers could share their victories and inspirations. On the last day of the conference, with the rising Hilo moon welcoming in the new lunar month of ʻIkuwā, Indigenous
Right: Kalo (taro) is a root vegetable that is one of the most complex carbohydrates on the planet and is considered by some to be the world’s oldest cultivated crop. Below: The palila (Loxioides bailleui) is a critically endangered finch-billed species of Hawaiian honeycreeper.
women and the power of storytelling took center stage, starting with a powerful keynote address by Quechua leader Tarcila Rivera Zea. Following Zea was an engaging panel on Indigenous women in language retention and revitalization. The last panel of the conference focused on the roles of media and storytelling in promoting, revitalizing, and encouraging Indigenous languages. This conference was extremely valuable, and I encourage you to learn more in future editions of the Cultural Survival Quarterly and at www.cs.org. There was much knowledge shared by the esteemed speakers and expert panelists, but for me, the most intriguing and valuable session was on the second day where a space was opened up for an interactive discussion among participants engaged in the work of language revitalization in all of its forms. From the person just entering into the work of revitalizing a language on the brink of extinction to the person fluent and well versed in a language that has recovered, great amounts of knowledge and learning were freely shared to support one another. As the discussion progressed, many beautiful moments occurred, such as the joyful realization when one Elder met the granddaughter of his friend from another Nation who had taken up her grandmother’s language work and is bringing it to the next generation. An intergenerational connection and the ensuing support was immediately realized, beautiful indeed. Many victories and obstacles were shared, as well as the paths to overcome. The topics of discussion were vast and wide, from ethical use of technology to mindset change, the lack of financial and knowledge resources, intellectual property rights to knowledge found in grammars created by scholars, oppressive governments to Tribal rule, and many, many more. It became readily apparent that there is not one right answer nor single pathway to success, but through discussion the group seemed to understand that we each must take on the responsibility laid before us for the betterment of not only our own Nations and Tribes, but also for all Indigenous Peoples on island Earth. With that understanding, we posed one last question: “What will you commit to do to further Indigenous languages and knowledge systems?” There were many beautiful answers, but the one that stood out to me was from Cultural Survival’s Executive Director, Galina Angarova (Buryat), who committed to looking for ways to continue conferences such as this throughout the UN Decade of Indigenous Languages in order for us to support one another and celebrate progress during this upcoming decade. So, dear reader, I also ask of you: what will you commit to do to further Indigenous languages and knowledge systems? To read this article in its original ʻōlelo Hawai’i version, go to tinyurl.com/hehulu. — Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai‘i) is the West Hawai‘i Regional Director for Kamehameha Schools and the Program Director and Lead DJ of Alana I Kai Hikina on KWXX-FM. He also serves as Chair of Cultural Survival’s Board of Directors and on the Board of The Cultural Conservancy. Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 15
Global Indigenous Languages Caucus panel presenters and youth ambassadors at USA Pavilion Expo 2020.
MAKING THE MOST OF THE INTERNATIONAL DECADE OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES FOR INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE COMMUNITIES
Photo courtesy of Richard Grounds.
Richard A. Grounds (Seminole and Yuchi)
ikipedia now has an extensive list of the “terminal speaker,” the last person to speak nowsilenced languages. This colonial blotter of lost languages appears as if buried in the back pages of some global newspaper, one of the many artifacts of colonial devastation. The list is like a global mortality chart tracking the growing momentum of losses of hundreds of Indigenous languages around the world since the 1800s. In Canada and the United States alone, 19 languages were lost in the 19th Century; 68 were silenced in the 20th Century; and so far, 22 have been stifled in the 21st Century. Those last speakers of Indigenous languages often become the focus of media that produce a long series of funeral dirges that typically drone on for years with the expectation of their impending demise. These news reports bemoan how tragic it is that an Indigenous language is being lost, despite the generations of carpet bombing deployed to destroy all Native languages north of Mexico. They make it appear that the only viable response is to get the language documented by academics before the last Elder passes—instead of getting knowledge of the spoken language back into the beloved community, so it can be carried forward for future generations. These exercises in colonial melancholia disarm the natural impulse to grow new speakers. They disempower efforts for structural changes that move away from documentation as an end in itself and shift to direct community engagement that keeps the languages vibrant by growing new, young speakers through immersion methods. Adding new, young speakers to Indigenous language communities is the ultimate—and only— critical measure of the success of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032).
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The good news is that the Decade is upon us. After attending the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for 16 years calling for an International Year of Indigenous Languages, I am extremely gratified that the International Year (2019) has been parlayed into a UN Decade. It is up to us to use this opportunity to bring about real change. A profound shift is needed that prioritizes Indigenous communities and intentionally focuses on grassroots Indigenous language work. Where the money is being spent tells us everything about what is actually being valued, as there is virtually no value being placed on living Indigenous communities—even though their languages carry traditional knowledge that is essential for living sustainably on this planet. The present funding structure funnels over 99 percent toward studying and archiving Indigenous languages. Instead of academic studies, we need to fund Indigenous communities and work to keep languages alive within Indigenous communities. (For a more complete discussion, see Grounds, “The Legacy of Hunter-Gatherers at the American Philosophical Society,” in Indigenous Languages and the Promise of Archives, ed. Adrianna Link, Abigail Shelton, & Patrick Spero, 2021.) This Decade offers new opportunities, but does not come with designated funding from the United Nations. We need to seize the moment and claim the Decade to pursue our most urgent language goals and create a positive synergy between all stakeholders. The following are target outcomes to bring support to grassroots Indigenous communities in our language revitalization and reclamation efforts:
ReIndigenize. Develop new and strengthened partnerships between Indigenous Peoples across the Indigenous world to counterbalance the colonial structures already dominant across the entire space of Indigenous languages. We must All photos by Sócrates Vásquez García.
teach and learn our languages by using our own languages through immersion instead of relying on colonial languages to help ensure the transmission of the original worldview. We need to support and learn from one another through knowledge sharing around best practices and capacity building for local language communities. We can amplify success stories from small language communities such as the quick turnaround for the Pertame language through their Master-Apprentice Program or the model used by the Yuchi Language Project to start raising babies in Yuchi as their first language again after four generations.
Protection and Rematriation Act. It would require the return of the inalienable cultural heritage represented in our Indigenous languages materials. The enforcement would come from the same mechanism used in NAGPRA, that all scholars and institutions such as museums, libraries, and universities would have federal dollars withheld until proper rematriation had been completed by returning copies of all audio, video and written language materials to those Indigenous communities from which they had been taken.
Decolonize. Intellectual colonialism through the study of
to obtain the adoption of a Convention for the safeguarding and revitalization of endangered languages (modeled after the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage). Such an agreement would be legally binding and provide a defense for all Indigenous languages as well as other minority languages that are threatened through legal discrimination, linguicidal policies and practices.
Indigenous languages has remained fundamentally unchanged for the past 200 years, as clearly indicated by its complete domination of funds for language work at the expense of Indigenous communities. Such patterns need to be named so they can be properly addressed and corrective changes implemented to rebalance the colonial inequation.
Indig-agency. It is essential that Indigenous Peoples exercise their own agency during the Decade. Native Nations should declare their own Decade for their languages and plan the language progress for their children 10 years from now. Indigenous communities cannot afford to rely on academic, formal or governmental processes to effectively meet their urgent need to grow new young speakers in the community who will carry forward their cultures, worldview, ceremonies, ancient wisdom, and strategies for sustainable living on Mother Earth. The Decade launch celebration in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, during the first week of January 2022 is an example of prioritizing Indigenous grassroots voices and will be available for online participation. Grassroots Funding Support. While Indigenous com- munities need to establish their own agency regarding their revitalization activities, there is still a need for funding to help the process of effective revitalization. Billions of dollars were expended on such projects as boarding schools with the explicit intention of destroying Indigenous languages. That is, we have had a great deal of help arriving in the present predicament and we will need that same level of help to restore our languages within our communities. We recommend supporting grassroots community language work through programs such as the Indigenous-led Global Indigenous Languages Fund to ensure that funding supports growing new speakers at the community level. 50-50 Protocol. We call for a new protocol in funding
Indigenous languages: for every dollar going to study, dissect, analyze, or archive our languages, there should be a dollar sent to Indigenous language communities to help them grow new speakers and keep their languages living within their own communities. It is indeed common practice for academic institutions to take 50 percent from a grant for administrative costs. In a similar fashion, Indigenous communities, as the bearers of the language should receive half of all funds going to study their language by outsiders.
Rematriation. We are calling for national legislation during the Decade modeled after the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA, 1990) in the United States that would focus specifically on Indigenous languages. This legislation could be styled as NALPRA, the Native American Languages
UN Convention. An important goal for the Decade is
Triage. With extremely limited resources and a short time to
work with remaining fluent Elders it is important to establish a system of triage that would prioritize those languages closest to the brink of being lost due to the relentless colonial assault. We want to revitalize as many languages as possible and give priority—though not exclusive focus—on those language communities that still have fluent Elder speakers to pass forward the fullness of the language and world view through breathto-breath intergenerational communication.
Special Rapporteur. We call for the designation of a Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Languages to correspond to the thrust of the Decade since there are so many ongoing violations of Indigenous language rights as supported in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 13, 14, and 16, as well as in the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169. Indigenous Leadership. We call for an Indigenous cofacilitator with deep experience in language revitalization to help organize and implement the operations of the Decade to be named in consultation with Indigenous Peoples. There is no substitute for having an Indigenous co-facilitator for the Decade under the mandate of the UN General Assembly. Recognitions. It is important to formally recognize eminent Elders and youth language warriors as a way to highlight the important language work that is presently being done across the Indigenous world and to encourage further community-based efforts. A principle benefit of such awards is to capture the attention of global media and help highlight the challenges and successes of Indigenous language communities. United States Rejoining UNESCO. We call on the Biden
Administration to rejoin UNESCO in order to be able to better support efforts by Native Nations to revitalize their languages in the framework of the International Decade which is falls under the leadership of UNESCO as declared by the UN General Assembly. — Richard A. Grounds, Ph.D. (Yuchi and Seminole) is Chair of the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus and Executive Director of the Yuchi Language Project. Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 17
Our Itǝnmǝn Language
Cannot Be Separated From Our Land
Ivan Bey works in the House of Culture with puppet characters like Kutkh the Raven and his wife Mitti. Photo by House of Culture in Kovran.
Tatiana Degai (Itelmen)
his is a story about an ancient language that resides on the Kamchatka peninsula on the Pacific coast of Russia. Itǝnmǝn (“the one who exists”), known today as Itelmen, is a language of the salmon people who were born from Mitti, a wise wife of Kutkh, the Great Raven Creator. Our land was created out of the King Salmon by Khutkh the Raven, who infused his fire spirit into its mountains and life into its rivers and taught people to hunt and fish. Itelmens have survived Christianization, Sovietization, collectivization, relocation, repression, and diseases. More than 250 years ago, the first explorers of Kamchatka were indicating that the Itelmen language would soon be extinct. We are still here. Linguistically, Itelmen belongs to the Chukchi-Kamchatkan language group and is considered a language isolate. Itelmen is famous for being a language of consonants, yet it is rather melodic and is beautifully represented in our songs and dances. Various members of our community and beyond have done tremendous work keeping our severely endangered language alive. Although it currently has less than a handful of speakers, thanks to them we have dictionaries, textbooks, Itelmen lessons in schools, and language lessons for adults. While many criticize such formal approaches to language learning, in language revitalization we need to use all resources possible to keep the language alive so that younger generations have a starting point to develop and achieve more.
Community Efforts and Language Revitalization Spaces
Indigenous languages in Russia fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, which means language revitalization is closely tied to, and in many instances limited by, formal 18 • www. cs. org
educational establishments, federal educational standards, and class work. Amazing success stories of Yuchi, Muskoki, Maori, Hawaiian, and other Indigenous languages indicate that we have a long way to go in our part of the world in developing a meaningful language revitalization agenda and planning that actually works. Still, we stay enthusiastic about the well being of Itelmen. Community action is visible and is bearing fruitful results. Through utilizing diverse venues and spaces, language learners enhance their language skills, raise the prestige of the language, and invite more interest to learn the language. Three formal venues are used to achieve these goals: the Kovran School, Kovran House of Culture, and Kamchatka Regional Scientific Library. These venues address different audiences and age groups and collectively work on advancing the state of the language by applying different methodologies. The School of Kovran Village is the only school that offers language lessons, and Itelmen children show much curiosity to learn Itelmen in the classroom. This classroom is unique in the way that it lives and breathes Itelmen worldviews, since it is located in the only remaining village where Itelmens are a majority. The Village of Kovran is also home to the Kovran House of Culture, which is a State institution that functions as the community house where diverse community events are organized. It is also home to the Itelmen dance group Elvel. Itelmens love to perform, and song and dance plays a major role in helping the younger generations be proud of who they are. Dancing teaches us not to be shy about our identity, but to be vocal about who we are and where we came from. The Itelmen language is very much alive during singing and dancing at ceremonies, festivals, and celebrations. In recent years, the Kamchatka Regional Scientific Library, located in the capital city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, has become a home to the group of adult learners who meet regularly to learn Itelmen through both formal and informal settings and activities. They are current advocates for language who actively promote language learning among the urban population. Language revitalization requires community interests and will, investment of finances, time, knowledge, and educational resources. There are currently not enough resources to start such highly effective programs as language immersion and Master-Apprentice language programs. But, Itelmens are utilizing the resources and institutions that are available to benefit the language through merging the interests of the State of Russia, which actively supports maintaining the cultural diversity of the country, and interests of the community, who are trying their best to keep language and culture alive.
Language Resource Innovation
Тʼаԓи Элвэнтзокас—“Go Fish” card game in Itelmen This game was developed based on the widely known card
The Itelmen language cannot be separated from Kamchatka land and its natural elements.
Go Fish card game in Itelmen developed by Tatiana Degai, Victor Ryzhkov, and Ilya Lobov.
game “Go Fish,” which my children enjoyed playing to learn English. We adapted this game to introduce Itelmen terminology in relation to Kamchatka flora and fauna. The cards not only provide individual names for animal and plant words, but these words are also introduced with the descriptives. For example: уљуљаӽ љэԓк’оч (small mouse), пǝӈлаӽ йуӈйучӽ (gray whale), моӄрэ мэт’ск’ай (furry bear), etc. Cards include illustrations and terminology both in Itelmen and Russian. The introduction card provides instructions on how to play this game solely in Itelmen through outlining basic commands in the language such as мԓэсчэн (my turn), анǝњчхча’ԓч (you won), хэтус анǝњчхча’ԓном (hurray, I won), etc. This game was developed with the hope that language learners will practice their language in informal settings such as sitting by the fire and playing cards. Cultural mapping Our language cannot be separated from Kamchatka land and rivers, the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk, and Indigenous wisdom. All are tightly interdependent and have long-time relations. Therefore, when we speak about language revitalization, we refer to traditional lands and waters. One of our long term projects is to create traditional cultural maps in the Itelmen language. Many Itelmen place names all over Kamchatka have been recorded by knowledge holders and researchers, yet we don’t have enough stories from and about those places in the language. This is not a new idea in the global arena, but it is quite new and innovative to Itelmens. Mapping of cultural places in the language is a topic that the community has been discussing for some time. While now we have only bits and pieces of information, there is an intention to compile a comprehensive story of our land in the near future. Puppet Theater Puppet theater has been successful in bringing back our stories in our language. With the goal to support language development, we had special puppets made that are representative of our traditional stories. Some stories are told only in Itelmen, and some are a mix of Itelmen and Russian. We introduced this form as a stage performance for the villagers, both adults and children, in consultation with the Elders and knowledge holders. These have shown to be effective in supporting interest in the language. First, the actors have to learn the script in the language, then the villagers are invited to All photos by Tatiana Degai.
watch and understand what the story is about. Usually we choose famous stories that everyone knows so the audience can understand most of the story if it is solely in Itelmen. This idea has gone beyond the puppet theater into the classroom, where children have started making paper dolls to stage their own stories.
These innovations show the bright side of the life of the Itelmen language, yet there is a long way to go towards language stabilization. These are just complementary educational materials that could best fit with a much needed Master- Apprentice language program. While the community is taking their own action to keep the language, they are caught in the widely spread myths about language learning that are centered around the need of a book, a classroom, a trained teacher, or a writing system. We are still going through the process of understanding and bringing back the traditional forms of education that have been working effectively for many centuries within our families, relatives, lands, and waters. For the UN Decade of Indigenous languages, I want to remain hopeful that this is not the last decade that Itelmens will have native language speakers. I want to believe that this decade will become known as the time when the Itelmen language reversed its decline and began to flourish. — Tatiana Degai (Itelmen) is a scholar from the Kamchatka peninsula on the Pacific coast of Russia, and is a Professor at the University of Victoria and an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Arctic Indigenous Studies at the ARCTICenter, University of Northern Iowa. She maintains a strong connection with the Council of Itelmens of Kamchatka “Tkhsanom,” working on language and culture revitalization and community well being. Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 19
Reclaiming the Forgotten Khoikhoi Language in South Africa An anti- violence resistance march led by Kaikhoin (Elder) Avril Andrews protesting the lack of justice for First Nation and enslaved descendant communities in ǁHuiǃGaeb (Cape Town).
Toroga Denver Breda (Khoikhoi)
akapusa, (erasure, or amnesia) in the Khoikhoi language, defines our Khoi reality in South Africa, a name-less country. No other group has experienced such violent systemic erasure on our own lands and with quite such intensity as our Khoi Peoples. It is frightening at times, given that 40 percent of this country is called “the Karoo,” which in Khoikhoi means “dry place.” Indeed, the Karoo is an arid place. So how, then, are we forgotten? In fact, we never left. A majority “yellowish people” who the colonizers found on this land with an abundance of cattle and land, we are the creators of one of the world’s original tongues. However, today we are gowab-o and !hub-o, without language and without land; our nam (tongues) in the !kho-ommi (prisons) of those we fed, clothed, and healed. Some of the everyday words in South Africa like dagga (cannabis), nai (sex), and kak (shit) are also from our abogan di gowab, or ancestral languages. So, how do we explain this pervasive systemic kakapusa? We know how easy it becomes to erase a Peoples when their languages are forgotten and they are no longer heard, when our nam are in chains, when the words we use no longer ╪khai╪khai (wake up our ancestors within us), when our gagas (spirits) are in the cages of the words beaten onto our tongues. My abogan’s kaise !khusib (extreme wealth) built this country and the world. We were the halfway mark from Europe to the East. Our cattle, water, and medicines made these long trips possible for Europeans, only for us to be forgotten and have our ancestral memories erased. Like many of our Khoi people who never knew that our ancestral gowab was still alive in parts of the northern Cape and Namibia, I believed that we would live this life as ancestral language orphans, abandoned by a mother we thought died long ago. I’ll never forget my first time hearing the !guru
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(thunder) of my ancestral tongue at a session facilitated by Bradley Van Sitters, experiencing that overwhelming sense of hoaragase (being complete) with something I never knew I lost. It was like a visually impaired person who undergoes a vision repair surgery and can suddenly mu (see) and recognize what they never knew they had been missing. A linguist, Pule, first raised my ╪ an!na (awareness) of gowab ╪oa!na (language loss). Khoi Peoples have been traumatized by 369 years of systemic violence on our tongues, thoughts, and bodies. They tried to keep us ignorant, making us believe that this colonially invented identity called “Coloured” and this Dutch Afrikan dialect, Afrikaans, defined us. I ╪aiho (remember) this writers residency with two Flemish writers from Belgium telling me, “Denver, when you speak Afrikaans, I hear my great-great grandfather.” I never felt so colonized as that day when a white woman told me that my tongue echoed her ancestor. Can we ever call ourselves !nora (free) when we still know only the words of those who took away our !norasasib (freedom)? Fortunately, by then I knew better and I could return to my room, open the Khoikhoi dictionary, and evict some colonizers from my mind, which is what I do every time I learn a Khoi word. This was one of the greatest challenges of my life, to learn the thunder of my ancestors, or what colonial linguists call “click sounds.” To reduce these sounds to simple clicks was to diminish the intelligence that led our abogan to take sounds from nature and turn them into a language. I spent weeks ╪aiho (reminding) my nam of what is hers. There were days of feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, and angry at a system that deprived my mama from sharing with me our community’s greatest ancestral |khaeb (gift), angry at a system that persists in its refusal to acknowledge the pain it caused, and still causes, our people. When I could do all the !guru of my ancestors, it felt like the heavens opened. There are few things as |gai|gaisen (empowering) as to know that your nam sounds like that of your All photos courtesy of Toroga Denver Breda.
abogan. It is to become human when your tongue knows !norasasib. Every new Khoi word I learnt was like a plaster to my wounded soul. Suddenly things made sense. The land made sense, and I saw our people. We can never truly hear or see our own when we know only the words and identities of colonizers, when we see ourselves through taoga (shameful eyes) of those who taught us to hate ourselves. Language loss also potentially leads to a community being more violent to each other, to abusing alcohol and drugs, and suicidal ideation. It now made sense to me why our Khoi people are known as the most violent people on this land, why many of us were raised with alcoholic parents and guardians, and why I have had to see many colonial therapists to understand my suicidal ideations. We are children of the ancestors who were stolen from our parents and forced to live with colonizers, who are also known as the “stolen generations” in the United States and Canada, an issue not spoken about in South Africa. I often tell people that my language revitalization work is my ╪urusen (healing). I wish that when those colonial doctors diagnosed me with depression, they actually had said to me, “Denver, you are part of a community who was violently torn from your lands and tongues. Your cultural identity was destroyed, your beliefs corrupted, your people were forced to live in the worlds of others. What you really need to do is to reconnect to what was lost.” Every Khoi word on my tongue became my so|oa-i (medicine), recognizing that these were our words that my ancestors used thousands of years ago. Like the First Nation Canadian activist who said that learning the languages of our abogan also serves to remind us of a time when we lived a kaise isa (beautiful life) on our own lands, in these words, who we are as a people make sense. But most importantly, I make sense. I’ll always mourn the fact that Khoikhoi was not breastfed to me as a baby, that my mama had to teach me the words of bondage. However, I also remember that every new word I learn dismantles the invisible and unacknowledged chains. Our words are a reminder that I am anu (worthy). Anu of the lands, but also the |khaeb of my ancestors. Anu tama (not feeling worthy) is one of the major challenges facing our community.
Today, I teach that our ancestral words are never just words, but they are messages our abogan sent to us from a time we have forgotten. The word for messages in Khoikhoi is haisi-ams, where the hai is tree, si is to send and ams is the mouth. I remember whilst lying under a tree thinking of the word haisi-ams, and I decided to be silent and listen to the haisi-ams of my abogan. I don’t think I have ever felt such a deep sense of being connected to the land as on that day. We, too, acknowledge that language loss is a loss of our connection to the land and what remains of a people who traverse their ancestral lands as strangers. I often share Khoikhoi in stories about what our language has taught me, and one of those stories is about the word taras. Taras means woman, but also supreme leader. A reminder to us all that before the arrival of Christian missionaries, our women were the leaders on our lands. They were our guides, only to have this natural order disrupted by colonizer men and their toxic patriarchal ideologies, which we are still recovering from. I have written poetry with Khoikhoi words, and with the help of our Kaikhoin (Elders) have compiled the “Khoikhoi Useful Phrases and Words Reader,” believing that Kurus (the arts) are the most important tools of consciousness. South Africa is yet to recognize the colonial genocide of our Khoikhoi and her sister N/UU language, and with little institutional empathy we see very little resource dedication to U-khai (uplifting) our ancestral languages. In the words of my Kaikhoin, Sada !nosasib ge Sada ôan di tsede ra !gom kai (Our silence will lead to even more difficult days ahead for our children). Today we are refusing !nosasib (silence), because HA DA GE A (we are still here). — Toroga Denver Breda (Khoihoi) is a Hui!Gaeb/Cape Town-based Khoikhoi First Nations gowab ╪Khaikhai -ao-I (language revitalizer), karetsanas-ao-i (poet), and kuwiri (disruptor). Through his kurus (art), he challenges the kakapusa (erasure) of South Africa’s First Nation languages and the stories of his abogan (ancestors). Breda compiled the Khoikhoi language reader, and he also created a book of poetry, “Kakapusa,” speaking to the invisibility and kakapusa of Khoikhoi First Nation communities in South Africa.
Left: Toroga Denver Breda (left) with Joe Klein, an educator at Hillwood Primary School, a majority Khoikhoi school. Right: Khoikhoi language session, Eersteriver, ǁHuiǁGaeb (Cape Town).
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The wide mega Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where more than a million Rohingya refugees shelter temporarily.
A Language in Crisis: Rohingya Mayyu Ali (Rohingya)
ehind every crisis, there is the loss of culture or language that a targeted people face. The people who are affected are merely seen as victims. At the heart of the slow-burning Rohingya genocide, we Rohingya have lost touch with our own culture and the originality of our oral language. This is another oppression against Rohingya. Arakan, today’s Rakhine State, situated in the west of Myanmar, is the permanent home of the Rohingya ancestors since the 7th Century. The Rohingya Peoples belong to a distinct culture, language, and faith and have their own arts distinct from those of other people around the world. Rohingya Muslims, Hindus, and the Buddhist ethnic minorities such as Daingnet and Mayamagyi speak Rohingya, an eastern Indo-Aryan language related to Bengali-Assamese. Arakan was an independent kingdom until the Burmese Konbaung Dynasty conquered it on December 31, 1784. Since then, Arakan has been part of Myanmar and was designated as the homeland of Buddhism, a process accompanied by the destruction of many historical mosques and other landmarks. In 1824 the British colonized Arakan, and over time, its Peoples, whether Rohingya, Buddhist, or Hindu, were introduced to a mixture of cultures and traditions. On January 4, 1948, Myanmar declared its independence from Great Britain. In 1962, a military Junta headed by U Ne Win seized power and his government targeted the Rohingya population in Arakan. To demolish the community, they targeted our culture and arts. In 1964, the government removed the Rohingya language from radio broadcasting. We gradually lost touch with our rich culture, traditions, and arts, despite our long existence and enduring Indigenous identity. There were several State-sponsored operations carried out by Burmese dictators against the Rohingya population in Arakan. In 1978, the socialist government of U Ne Win launched Operation Dragon King. During the violence,
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many Rohingya were killed or incarcerated and more than 200,000 others fled to neighboring Bangladesh. In the 1980s our citizenship rights were stripped by the Junta. Since then, an apartheid web of rights restrictions was increasingly tightened in which we were discriminated against socially and religiously. We were restricted in our ability to practice our own cultural traditions and religious festivals. The abuse culminated in a military crackdown in August 2017, when Myanmar security forces systematically targeted the Rohingya population in Arakan. This time, more than 700,000 Rohingya villagers fled to neighboring Bangladesh, haunted by stories of gang rape, mass killings, and arson attacks that prompted the world’s fastest refugee exodus since the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The United Nations described it as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” After the killings, the Myanmar government bulldozed our ancient Madrassahs, mosques, and other religious buildings as part of their efforts to erase our heritage, a reminder of our deep roots in the land of Arakan. Arakan is known as “the green garden,” and is a historical coastal region in Southeast Asia. It is a place of great natural beauty with lush hills, forests, rivers, and all varieties of natural splendor. In Arakan, people rely on mother nature. They love the purity of nature deeply. The smell of paddy fields, the sound of birdsong, and the whisper of flowing rivers in Arakan inspire lyrics rich with appreciation, reflecting our literary and aesthetic sensibilities and the fertile soil provided by mother nature herself, which nurtures the spirit and our wish to preserve the rhythm of these gifts in the core of our hearts. Folk songs are an integral part of the oral tradition of Rohingya culture. Rohingya folk songs are transmitted through oral tradition, coming to us from unknown composers. Some folk songs are of ancient provenance, performed as part of Rohingya custom since time immemorial in Arakan. These artifacts of tradition were shared from generation to generation within the community. Rohingya folk songs are All photos by Mayyu Ali.
composed in the native Rohingya language, rich in rhythmic verse and aesthetic values rooted in history and the spirit of the land. Once upon a time, when there was no pen and paper in Arakan, our Rohingya ancestors recorded the memories of wars, battles, kings, kingdoms, love, tragedy, and disasters by composing folk songs, folktales, riddles, and proverbs. In this way they left lessons and morals to be passed to their children and grandchildren. Collectively, they represent a saga that began with the ancient Rohingya culture and flows through our heritage, connecting our language to our land and carrying the values and wisdom of our ancestors who came before us in Arakan. When I was a child, my grandfather had a ritual: every night before going to sleep, he used to tell me those Rohingya traditional folktales, folk songs, and lullabies. On his lap, I would fall asleep while listening to the sound of his voice. The tune is very beautiful, and the depth of the verses would follow me until I understood their meaning as an adult. Now, the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar has become the temporary home of more than 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees. Myanmar still refuses to offer any guarantees of safety or rights to the Rohingya. After the latest military coup in February 2021, many Rohingya worry that they won’t be able to safely return to their homeland for years or possibly decades. These refugee families have no choice but to force themselves to stay put. More than 600,000 Rohingya people still reside in Myanmar, but they are at risk of further genocidal acts at the hands of the Myanmar military. Exile not only fades the light of our culture, but also forces us to adapt our language and culture to that of the host community. In these refugee camps, Rohingya aid workers, teachers, religious leaders, majhis (camp leaders), and others are forced to use the Bengali language at their workplaces. The speed of this influence forces the general Rohingya refugee community to use these mixed tongues even in their homes, as well as in their mutual communication with friends and relatives in their daily lives. There are multiple factors in losing the originality of Rohingya oral language, and the Rohingya refugee community is gradually forgetting their own language. Thousands of Rohingya refugees who have been living in Kutupalong and Noyapara refugee camps since 1993 have almost completely adapted to life in Bangladesh. They speak the same tongue as the Bangladeshi host community and wear the same style of clothing. There is little cultural difference between them today. This exemplifies the final step in the destruction of the Rohingya language and identity that U Ne Win began in the 1960s. The worst thing is that the NGOs and agencies that operate in the refugee camps seem blind to this loss; some NGOs and agencies have been using this mixed language in awareness raising campaigns for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. The Myanmar government often accuses us of being Bengali, saying that we migrated to Myanmar illegally. One day, we will return to our homeland in Myanmar. But returning with this mixed tongue and mixed culture will give validity to those who say that we are simply illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and will make our lives difficult in new ways. In
Young Rohingya girls playing rosí foldani, a Rohingya traditional rope jumping game inside the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
terms of our identity, Rohingya have lost almost everything. Our oral language is the last piece of identity we have. Maintaining this identity is the greatest concern for us now. On March 21, 2019, my friends and I established Art Garden Rohingya, an online platform that has been documenting and reviving Rohingya culture, language, literature, and art. We have hundreds of budding Rohingya artists, including several women, who write poetry, draw paintings, and sing songs in Rohingya. In the Rohingya diaspora community, there are several movements and developments related to revitalizing the Rohingya language. And today we have two modern Rohingya scripts: Hanifi Rohingya and Rohingyalish. The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights has been translated into Hanifi Rohingya and there are some dictionaries and exercise books in Rohingyalish. In the refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar, my friends and I are coordinating the Rohingya Language Preservation Project. We are documenting those mixed languages that Rohingya refugees now speak and are raising community awareness about the importance of maintaining the Rohingya language. This is just the first step in a journey of a million miles. — Mayyu Ali (Rohingya) is the author of “EXODUS: Between Genocide and Me.” He is a poet, human rights activist, and humanitarian worker. He has written op-eds for The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Financial Times, Asia Times, CNN, The Independent, Al Jazeera, and Dhaka Tribune, among others. He is the co-founder and editor at Art Garden Rohingya.
Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 23
Realistic Solutions to Creating Grassroots Fluency: N’syilxcn
Creating an immersion domain nest.
Sʔím̓laʔxʷ Michele Johnson (Syilx) Sʔím̓laʔxʷ Michele Johnson PhD (Syilx) is Executive Director, lead activist, and teacher at the Sylix Language House. She is a member of Okanagan Indian Band, related to Simlas and Richters with Syilx and Suyápix (Euro) ancestry. Johnson is certified n̓ łəqʷčin̓ (high-intermediate) by Sʕam̓tíc̓aʔ Peterson and Chris Parkin of the Salish School of Spokane (Paul Creek). She spearheaded the n̓ ql̓xʷčn̓iłxʷ “language house” model during her doctoral and postdoctoral research in Indigenous language revitalization at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The following is an excerpt of Johnson’s keynote address at the “Restoring and Protecting Our Native Languages and Landscapes” Conference. It has been lightly edited for clarity and continuity.
he Syilx Language House was formed in 2015 at the request of the Chiefs and Councils from three of our Syilx partner communities. N’syilxcn is a critically endangered Interior Salish language. There are fewer than two dozen fluent Elders remaining in the entire Syilx territory, which is quite large geographically, spanning southern British Columbia, Canada, and northern Washington, and has a population of around 10,000 people. This calls for radical methods because of the critically endangered status, large size, and so few people and Elders. Following the recommendations of the late language revitalizer and Director of the Piegan Institute, Darryl Kipp 24 • www. cs. org
(Blackfeet), N’syilxcn is now a full time language domain for us. We teach adults in small groups following a sequenced intensive Salish Curriculum for 1,600 hours. We also record and share freely our Elder stories. Pre-COVID-19, we ran an immersion nest for toddlers. We face barriers and we build realistic solutions. The adults are paid to learn full time and adult lessons are working phenomenally over Zoom. We follow a world class curriculum. We are so lucky to have this curriculum created by the Salish School of Spokane. Our program has real-time results and these methods are mobile. My current group of intrepid language warriors meets four days a week on Zoom for three hours per day. They achieve 550 hours of sequenced curriculum in a calendar year, and they are all paid to be there. We are inspired by some really smart people, including Kipp, who said, “work with the ones who want it. Do not ask permission to save your language.” We are also inspired by Hawaiians who worked with the ones who wanted it, and now have thousands of children being raised in Hawaiian. Sʕam̓tíc̓ aʔ Sarah Peterson, our wonderful fluent Elder; we have so much love for her because she recorded thousands of hours of audio files with our sequenced curriculum. Joshua Fishman inspired me from the beginning with his Graded Intergenerational Disruption scale of one to eight that measures a language’s vitality, with eight being critically endangered of going silent. When your language is at eight, it is best not to focus on creating a school or a radio program; it’s too early to form a school when you don’t have any fluent adults yet to run it. Chris Parkin and Larae Wiley at the Salish School of Spokane wrote the Salish Curriculum with the late Sʕam̓tíc̓ aʔ Peterson. They run an immersion school in Spokane for 75 children and 30 staff. All of those people are on the road to fluency, and we follow in their footsteps. Language revitalization means to bring back to life. Herman Edward, a fluent speaker in our language territory says, “We are the ones who will revitalize our languages.” What is fluency? You hear people say it takes a lifetime to become fluent; it actually takes about 4,000 to 10,000 hours to become an advanced speaker. If you are in a program that is teaching 1,000 to 2,000 hours, the highest you will achieve is high intermediate, and that is with a lot of dedication and homework. We know in my language program that we need for some people to get to advanced in this lifetime. A program of 4,000–10,000 hours will result in advanced speakers. In my personal experience, the success factors to fluency include safety as the number one. So many of our language programs have been taught in a way that causes people to feel very insecure about language. Our program and the All photos courtesy of Sʔím̓ laʔx ʷ Michele Johnson.
N'syilxcn language learning brings much pride to Syilx communities.
curriculum is designed to have safety in the classroom. Our first 200 hours of curriculum-based lessons are fun and interactive. They really build confidence because classroom safety is paramount in language learning. Language tension is important to recognize for learning. If the tension is too high you can’t learn, and if the tension is too low you can’t learn. We have created a domain based on immersion. You can’t expect people to revitalize the language on evenings and weekends. The Salish Curriculum is 12 complete binders with about 300 pages each that have partner exercises, audio clips, computer programs, teaching methods, and lesson plans. Each textbook takes about 200 hours to teach. I’m going to share with you a little bit about what it’s like in an adult classroom that’s following the sequenced curriculum. It’s amazing. We find it transformational and it can be scary. And that’s why classroom safety is so important: kindness is built into the curriculum. The curriculum is designed so that when you learn the book, you teach the book. And once you’re teaching the book, that’s when your learning really takes off. These methods and curriculum are now translated into about 10 different languages, which is very exciting. For example, I could train you in how to write and teach these books, even if you’re a beginner. Now, keep in mind, this is for critically endangered languages. If you still have 3,000 fluent speakers that are under the age of 40, you can follow different methods. But if your language is like mine and you have very few fluent speakers and they’re all over the age of 60 or 70, these are the methods for you. The next steps after the four-year fluency program are to create domains of use. For our language that will be a language nest, a school, and a fluency full time recording team for adults, for Elders. We embed into our programs lateral kindness training for staff to combat lateral violence and support each other through intergenerational trauma. We incorporate nonviolent communication methods and also methods from stand-up comedy. We graduated eight adults in 2019 and made a film showing our speaking ability. This is really heartwarming; because we have reached a mid-intermediate speaking proficiency, we’re able to talk about our experience in the language, in Nsyilxcn. We created a wonderful language nest for toddlers and
staff, which ran for an entire year and was our way of using our language skills in immersion with children out on the land. Once staff had received 200 hours of language training, they were ready to take their skills out on the land with children and play simple immersion games and activities. Staff continued to receive language lessons each day. The nest was closed by three things: COVID-19, language tensions, and interpersonal conflict. When we do this again, we will start it with lateral kindness training and professionalism. We also work with Elders and record and publish Elder recordings each year. This knowledge is a priority to us. We partner with Victor Antoine, Grouse Barnes, Herman Edward, Theresa Ann Terbasket, and other Elder speakers to fill a gap in advanced literature. The recordings can all be accessed on our website, thelanguagehouse.ca. All of our recordings are freely shared. You can download, listen, and use them. In the classroom, we’ve experienced language tension, a normal feature of language learning, as well as the tension of growth and the tension of creating a domain. What we’ve learned is the necessity of picking yourself up after setbacks. When you encounter a barrier, just know it’s been encountered by every other language warrior before you. We just keep going because we know our language is important. It’s a sacred responsibility that we have to bring this language back in our lifetime. I’m humbled by the amount of dedication and how the students show up every day.
There are fewer than two dozen fluent Elders remaining in the entire Syilx territory.
To learn more about the Syilx Language House, visit thelanguagehouse.ca. To access the sequenced curriculum, a free download that can be translated into any language, visit: interiorsalish.com.
Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2021 • 25
KOE F gra n t p a rtn e r sp otl i ght
Resguardo Indígena Inga San Miguel de la Castellana Above: Inga community leaders and members welcome Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López (Ayuuk ja’ay and Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Program Manager, with traditional music and songs during a field visit.
Nathalie Martinez (CS In te rn )
n the midst of the humble silence of the forests along the eastern mountain range of Colombia, it’s possible to hear the soft sound of children and young people singing. Though the words may be incomprehensible to most, the lyrics are a gift that represent resilience and honor. Singing in honor of Atun Puncha Day, a celebration that honors the fight for cultural resistance, perseverance, and strength, the children use a gift inherited from their Elders and families— a gift that was nearly lost and has since been revitalized— their language. For the Inga community of Colombia, communication is a power that holds not only their cosmology, history, and way of thinking, but also their identity. “Our language is beautiful,” Edna Viviana Papamija said. “It is the expression of who we are, how we live.” Language endangerment is one of the greatest threats that many Indigenous communities face across the globe. In the face of the pressures of territorial losses, climate change, and globalization, language loss has only become more exacerbated as a result of these external forces. For the Inga, while 100 percent of their community identifies as Indigenous, only 50 percent of the population speaks the Inga language. Language is a cultural resource as valuable as any other natural resource under threat. In the Putumayo of Colombia, the Resguardo Indígena San Miguel de la Castellana has formed an intergenerational collective to combat language loss through the revitalization of their language and cultural traditions. Through the efforts of their community and the support of Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund, the initiative has focused on four mingas de pensamiento (community gatherings of ceremonial exchange). Where “identity lies, history is told, narrated, and lived … the wisdom of the Elders is appreciated,” said Governor Aida Jacanamejoy, who is also known as la madre comunitaria.
The four projects were established through a consensus among youth, linguists, and Elders. Their goal was to make the greatest impact possible in the community as they learned about traditional practices in the Inga language. The first minga focused on the biodiversity of the Ingas’ ancestral lands. Participants learned about the arrangement of the tulpa (central fireplace) and its role in the preparation of native dishes. A variety of meals were prepared, including maitukusaska, a fish that is wrapped in sirindango leaf with natural seasonings and roasted on a charcoal grill. The minga provided students the opportunity to have a combined linguistic and cultural learning experience. Elders shared the significance of consuming natural food sources while teaching the youth participants the properties and characteristics that help one to avoid illnesses and prolong one’s lifespan. The second minga was associated with the commemoration of Atun Puncha Day. Through phrases like ‘kausankamalla’ (as long as you live), participants recognized those who had fought before. Everyone wore crowns of feathers, traditional clothing, and necklaces of beans and natural seeds. The festivities were also joined by instruments like the bombo, rattle, and dulzaina. Meals of meat, yucca, and ají were served to accompany chicha, a traditional beverage made with either plantains, yucca, or chontaduro. United as a family alongside the governor, the Inga language was brought to life through songs and dances honoring nature, the Earth, and the cosmos. The third minga was dedicated to sharing traditional games and songs with younger generations. Those who had the privilege to attend learned from Elder Enrique Jojoa, who told the story of the bodoquera, a weapon similar to a blowgun that was used to defend Inga territory against invaders. As he narrated, he presented one that he had inherited from his father. Dating nearly 150 years, it had remained intact. He talked about the significance of the phases of the moon in dictating how and when to properly cut the materials needed
26 • www. cs. org All photos courtesy of Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López.
to manufacture the weapon, and the importance of geometry in measuring each piece needed. Elder Jojoa also showed how the connection between the essence of the Inga worldview and spirituality contains an abundance of play, hunting, and self-defense. His teachings showed the importance of appreciating the elders and also represented the cultural richness and wisdom held within Indigenous languages. Inspired by his story, the young participants set out to continue playing and building bodoqueras just as he, and the many that came before him, had done. The fourth minga was focused on the theme of traditional medicine. Under the guidance of Taita Sinchi, a traditional Indigenous doctor known for his knowledge in ancestral medicine, participants took part in the ceremonial drinking of Yagé, or ayahuasca. Through the sacred ritual, they learned how to conduct the ceremony under the protection of the spirits of the land, arranging the necessary materials and leading the songs and music to create a space for others to focus on the healing process of the evening practice. Sinchi shared his story in traditional medicine and discussed the importance of frequently practicing the ceremony to fully understand the experience. By morning, each participant awoke with a renewed state of mind and body, followed by a cleansing process where Sinchi provided each person with advice regarding their professional, spiritual, and physical well being. The mingas de pensamiento gave younger generations renewed gratitude in the traditional knowledge of their Elders and showed them the fundamental connections within their culture and maternal Inga language. Sandra Milena Buesaquillo, a young Inga girl, shared, “we still have time to strengthen our maternal language [and now] we have the support, wisdom, and the precious richness of our Elders.” Participants also developed an awareness for the ways in which their culture had been discriminated against and ways others had sought to dominate them through forced displacement and educational policies. In Colombia, the loss of territorial control and increase of criminal violence within Indigenous spaces has
been associated with the increased likelihood of language endangerment. Members of the Inga community have borne witness to this with the rise of natural resource extractions on their lands. Alongside the production of audio and written materials, including a book printed in the Inga language and the development of a kindergarten Inga school, the mingas de pensamiento have reconnected the community with their gift of voice and strengthened their spiritual connections. Through traditional activities, they have shared the history of the community and begun conserving their maternal Inga language. The practice of traditional foodways proved to be even more essential during the pandemic; women in leadership developed long term solutions that allowed the community to get closer to the land to cultivate their own food sources to achieve food sovereignty. Through the Inga language, present and future generations have the chance to capture the true meaning and significance of their cultural traditions. Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF) is an Indigenous Led Fund within Cultural Survival designed to support Indigenous Peoples’ community development and advocacy projects. Since 2017, through small grants and technical assistance, KOEF has supported 182 projects in 36 countries totaling $791,838. KOEF provides, on average, $5,000 grants to grassroots Indigenous-led communities, organizations, and traditional governments to support their self-determined development projects based on their Indigenous values. Predicated on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Survival uses a rights-based approach in our grantmaking strategies to support grassroots Indigenous solutions through the equitable distribution of resources to Indigenous communities. In 2020, a COVID-19 emergency KOEF grant also supported Resguardo Indígena Inga San Miguel de la Castellana’s efforts to develop a longterm solution project to ensure food sovereignty, which strengthened their connection to their lands.
Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López (Ayuuk ja’ay and Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Program Manager, with teachers, students, and members of the San Miguel de la Catellana community.
Cultural CulturalSurvival SurvivalQuarterly Quarterly December 2021 • 27
st af f s po t lig h t
Meet Monica Coc Magnusson
ultural Survival welcomes our new Director of Advocacy and Policy, Monica Coc Magnusson (Q’eqchi Maya). Monica is an attorney born in Laguna, Toledo District, Belize, where she currently resides. As she describes, “people here still practice our traditional ways of being, planting our milpas, hunting, gathering, and fishing in the winding streams and lagoons that grace our village. We still maintain our traditional forms of governance, and our Jolomil K’aleb’aal (traditional leaders or Alcaldes) hold both a customary and statutory role.” Monica spent her early childhood with her parents, siblings, and extended family, including her grandmother, Na’ Tzul (Mother Mountain). “In many respects, I lived in three worlds: that of the Catholic school that I attended outside of my village, that of my non-Native neighbors and playmates, and my own Q’eqchi Maya community in Laguna. We spent the week in town and returned to the village on the weekends. Those were days that allowed me to love and appreciate different cultures and languages present here in Belize,” she says. On choosing her career path, Monica says she was influenced by the issues 28 • www. cs. org
facing her community. “Growing up in an Indigenous community had lots of challenges, particularly related to land tenure security. I often heard conversations around the threats to our way of life. My close association with Mayan leaders, as some were my relatives, allowed me to witness the work of prominent leaders in our community. As I got older, I realized that we needed technical and legal support to get our message to the global community. This is what instilled a desire in me to pursue a law degree and sparked my interest in human rights issues.” A true trailblazer, Monica became the first Indigenous woman from southern Belize to be called to the Belize Bar and become a lawyer. After graduating from Le Moyne College in upstate New York with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology, she began her legal training at Indiana University School of Law and received her Doctor of Jurisprudence in 2008. She practiced law for several years in North Carolina before completing the requisite program at Norman Manley Law School to qualify her to practice law in Belize. Her areas of practice include international human rights law, civil litigation, and criminal defense. For the last decade, Monica has engaged in the struggle to defend Maya land rights. She served as local counsel to the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association where she helped advance claims before Belize’s highest appellate court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, as well as the Supreme Court of Belize. She was involved in the landmark land rights case Maya Leaders Alliance, et al v The Attorney General of Belize. Most recently, she served as co-counsel to the
Maya community of Jalacte, who were awarded $3 million USD in damages for violation of their constitutional rights. Monica is ardent about women and children’s rights. She has worked with local organizations on issues related to crimes against women and children and the Human Rights Commission of Belize on issues facing refugees by participating in their Legal Clinics. “I am passionate about uplifting, empowering, and loving people,” she says. “However, only by loving our true selves will we be able to love others. Loving oneself is hard for many of us, but especially colonized Peoples, because the idea that we are not good enough has been ingrained in us from years and years of colonization. The traumas our parents faced are passed on from one generation to the next, and it is something we struggle with as Indigenous Peoples. We must do everything in our power to continue to decolonize our minds, to become proud of our heritage and culture and who we were created to be in this world.” Monica first connected with Cultural Survival when she traveled to New York City to attend the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues on behalf of her community. She was impressed with “the important work that Cultural Survival does with Indigenous Peoples around the world, supporting our Indigenous communities to effectively participate in international spaces by highlighting local struggles.” As the new Director of Advocacy and Policy, she says, “I am hopeful that we can expand our reach even further as we continue to impact, encourage, and influence policies related to the protection of the rights of Indigenous communities on a global scale in this ever-changing world.”
All photos courtesy of monica coc magnusson.
Ba za a r a rt ist s potl igh t
Art and Healing by Way of the Generous Tree Julio Laja Chichicaxtle Danae Laura (CS Staff)
n San Pablito, Puebla, Mexico, there is a tradition of making papel amate (Otomi bark paper). In recent years, Julio Laja Chichicaxtle (Otomi) has represented his family, town, and Indigenous tradition at the Cultural Survival Bazaars, where he sells papel amate works of art. The bark is harvested from a tree that is called popova in the Ñühü language. The tree was selected because it is the only one that can produce four different colors of paper; it is known as a “generous tree” because it can be harvested all year long without causing damage. Once the bark is collected, each art piece takes a few days to make. The tree bark is harvested by community members, who then transport the material to the artists. While fresh bark is drying, dry bark gets “cooked” in boiling water mixed with lime, ash, and firewood. Laja explains that the process requires constant observation: “It cooks for about five or six hours, and when it is cooking we wait all night. Then we take it out to wash the fiber because [that is when] it has a lot of color, and [we] have to wash it so that it stays that way.” The resulting colors are brown, white, green, and ochre. White is the only color that is not 100 percent natural, requiring a bit of bleach to achieve the desired shade. Laja honors his heritage by identifying the history of the art related to land and place. He says that healers were the first to work with the bark of the generous tree using papel amate, at that time making it into small sheets as a way to wrap and store the medicines they prescribed to heal community members. Through his work, Laja also connects with his family’s lineage of art-making. His family has been making papel amate for more than 200 years, passing the knowledge down through the generations. Children start learning and helping around seven years old. Each day they are asked to make a little before and after school, and by age 15 All photos courtesy of julio laja chichicaxtle.
Left: Julio Laja Chichicaxtle weaves papel amate. Center: Laja’s family makes both colorful embroidery representing nature and various styles of papel amate made from bark. Right: Julio Laja Chichicaxtle with his business partner and wife Cirila Trejo Gonzales, wearing their embroidery.
they know a great deal. Laja learned from his grandfather and taught his kids, who are now in their 20s. Today, Laja’s family also makes and sells elaborately embroidered tapestries and bed covers depicting animals and plants. Through the process of making papel amate, Laja asserts his family’s wisdom: he knows what enough is. As demand for his family’s products has increased, especially due to international exposure such as the Cultural Survival Bazaars, he has faced the question of whether or not to expand the business. After some discussion, he and Cirila Trejo Gonzales—his business partner and wife—decided to maintain their way of life, capping their production team at 12 people made up of immediate and extended family. They employ up to an additional 18 people, including those who harvest the bark. According to Laja, papel amate has always been popular as an item to sell, even when it was made quite plainly in past generations. There is nothing plain about their weavings today, however, with elaborate centers and fretwork designed by Trejo ranging in size from 40x60 cm to 120x240 cm. At the Bazaars, customers flock to their booth and then spend ample time unstacking the individual pieces to select the design, bark color, and application for where the item might go in their home, whether as table setting, wall hanging, or as art to frame. It is rare for a customer not to find one they want to take home. All in-person Cultural Survival Bazaars in 2021 are postponed due to the pandemic. Like Laja, we have missed the in-person Bazaars and will soon announce the dates for the July 2022 Bazaar season. We hope to be together soon, safely, and in celebration of Indigenous art. Until then, please consider supporting and buying directly from our Bazaar artists by visiting our directory of artists at bazaar.cs.org.
Cultural December 2021 2021 •• 29 29 Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly December
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