Cultural Survival Q
Hear Our Languages International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019
Vol. 43, Issue 1 â€¢ March 2019 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
M A R C H 201 9 Vo lum e 43 , Issue 1 Board of Directors president
Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) Vice President
Steven Heim Treasurer
Jason Campbell (Spokane)
Nicole Friederichs Evelyn Arce Erickson (Muisca) Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i) Laura Graham Ajb’ee Jiménez (Maya Mam) Lesley Kabotie (Crow) John King Stephen Marks Tui Shortland (Ma–ori) Stella Tamang (Tamang)
In many parts of the world, like the Philippines, Indigenous-led language efforts are not just underfunded but blatantly attacked. Lumad students joined the mobilization in Manila to denounce the continuing encampment of Lumad schools and communities. Photo by Carlo Manalansan.
F e at u r e s
D e par t m e n t s
14 Keeping the Indigenous in the International Year of Indigenous Languages
1 Executive Director’s Message
Richard A. Grounds 2019 has been proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages, after nearly two decades of work by Indigenous language advocates.
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 Santa Fe Office Mailing Address 518 Old Santa Fe Trail, Suite 1-641 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505 Cultural Survival Quarterly
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16 gOnE Enû O’wAdAnA: A New Generation of Yuchi Speakers Halay Turning Heart In Oklahoma, the Yuchi House is revitalizing an endangered language for a new generation.
18 Mukayuhsak Weekuw: The Children’s House
Copyright 2019 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.
ii • www. cs. org
Rights in Action: Indigenous Peoples March Captures the World’s Ear
COP 24 in Katowice: Indigenous Peoples Achieve Mixed Results
8 Indigenous Knowledge
Water Is Sacred
10 Indigenous Food From Little Things, Big Things Come in Alaska
12 Indigenous Arts
Wôpanâak is the first American Indian language to be reclaimed with no living speakers for many generations.
Ivan Encelewski How a video game in the Iñupiaq language is instilling cultural pride in Native Alaska youth.
In the News
20 The Making of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa): Celebrating a People and a Language
The Revolution Will Be Accessorized
26 Staff Spotlight
Sócrates Vásquez Garcia
28 Community Media Grant Partner Radio Valley FM
29 Bazaar Artist Afri-root Collective
22 Revitalizing Our Languages
Indigenous language activists from around the world speak about their work. • • • •
How the History of Linguicide Threatens Indigenous Peoples in Asia Today — Patricia Wattimena Returning to Udmurt Roots — Bogdan Anfinogenov Installing Apps to Instill Kichwa Kañari Pride — Juan Carlos Solano HandSpeak: Signing in Limbum — Melvin Songwe Shuye
On the cover Gleeza Joy (Lumad) urged everyone to join the campaign to save Lumad schools during a protest march in Manila, Philippines in 2018. Photo by Carlo Manalansan.
E xecut iv e Di rector’ S messa ge
Hear Our Languages, Hear Our Voices
he United Nations recognizes 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, bringing world attention to the critical importance of maintaining and revitalizing Indigenous languages. Today, of the 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, close to 2,680 languages are in danger of disappearing altogether. Throughout the world, Indigenous Peoples are working vigorously to reclaim and revitalize their languages, which are essential in maintaining their cultures. Indigenous languages intrinsically carry unique systems of knowledge and ways of knowing and understanding our relationships, responsibilities, and place in the world; our languages are sacred living expressions of creative thought and power. In this issue of the CSQ, we highlight the incredible work of a few of the many Indigenous language activists who have dedicated their lives to revitalizing their mother tongues. Focusing on transmission of language with youth and children who will become the language carriers into the future, Halay Turning Heart (Yuchi) writes about the Yuchi House and their efforts with the remaining fluent Elders to develop new young speakers of Yuchi through immersion methodologies. She proudly declares, “We have reached a pivotal point in the life of our language: for the first time in nearly a century, a new group of children are speaking Yuchi as a mother tongue.” In Massachusetts, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project that began in 1993 now operates a full time Montessori language immersion school. Wôpanâak is the first American Indian language reclaimed with no living speakers for many generations. Elder Dawn Blake Souza (Assonet Band Wampanoag) says, “The success of Mukayuhsak Weekuw (The Children’s House) has given me a profound sense of peace in knowing that our future generations will have one thing that I was lacking as a child—the irreplaceable connection between our Native language and our culture.”
Other individuals and communities are using innovation to make their languages relevant to youth through media as varied as fashion, music, and video games. Melvin Songwe Shuye writes about the need “to develop Indigenous sign languages so as to be able to transmit cultural values to the hearing and speech impaired, and other persons with disabilities” in an article highlighting efforts to make the Limbum language more accessible in Cameroon. Elsewhere in the issue, Sócrates Vásquez Garcia (Ayuuk) highlights the importance of broadcast media, specifically community radio, in maintaining Indigenous languages by “. . . speaking our languages and naming things from our perspectives and our visions, who we were, who we are, and who we want to be as a people. Radio is an ideal tool for our peoples, whose cultures are very much based in oral traditions.” Ultimately, as Richard Grounds (Yuchi) reminds us, “The celebration of Indigenous languages on a global stage should not be allowed to obscure a clear picture of the extreme challenges for Indigenous Peoples and their languages. There can be no greater threat to the existence of a people than the eradication of their language . . . more than 2,000 Indigenous languages are critically endangered with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. Therefore, the vigor of the language among the youth is the most critical indicator for the cultural health and political sovereignty of Indigenous nations.” Indigenous language movements are about our sovereignty and self-determination and a process of decolonization. Cultural Survival supports language revitalization efforts that assure language continuation in Indigenous communities where native languages remain strong. In Solidarity,
Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Cultural Survival Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Community Media Program Manager Jessie Cherofsky, Bazaar Program Manager Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy Program Manager Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Maru Chávez Fonseca, Program Manager, Indigenous Rights Radio Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Nati Garcia (Maya Mam), Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Coordinator Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Program Associate, Community Media Grants Project Danae Laura, Bazaar Program Manager Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez, (Mixe/Ayuuk ja’ay & Zapotec/Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Project Manager Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Teresita Orozco Mendoza, Program Associate, Community Media Program & Indigenous Rights Radio Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Community Media Program Coordinator Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Program Assistant Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Melissa A. Stevens, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships Sócrates Vásquez García (Ayuuk), Community Media Grants Coordinator Miranda Vitello, Development Associate
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Tobias Berblinger, Brooke Gilder, Kiara Hernandez, Sarah Markos, Emilee Martichenko, Mary Newman, Allen Perez, Alondra Ramirez
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Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 1
i n t he new s Colombia: Amazon Reserves Expanded December
In January, close to 1,500 people marched through downtown Vancouver in support of Wet’suwet’en sovereignty and the Unist’ot’en Camp. Photo by Murray Bush.
U.S.: Native American Victories across Midterm Elections November
The 2018 midterm elections were unprecedented both in terms voter turnout, estimated at over 113 million, and in the diversity of the candidates. According to Indian Country Today, 103 Native American candidates ran, achieving 58 victories in races from governorships to state legislatures. The first two Native American women, Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo, D-NM), and Sharice Davids (Ho Chunk, D-KS), were elected to Congress; Davids is also the first openly LGBTQ Native person elected to congress. Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Nation) became the first Native woman elected lieutenant governor of Minnesota. Arizona tripled the amount of Native representation in its state senate with the election of Jamescita Peshlakai (Navajo), Victoria Steele (Seneca), and Mary Ann Gonzales (Pascua Yaqui). Elsewhere across the country, at least 28 Native women were elected to state legislatures or Congress, accounting for nearly half of the 58 seats won by Tribal citizens.
US.: Bipartisan Support in Congress for Wampanoag Land Rights January
One of the first bills introduced in the 116th Congress has gathered bipartisan support: the Mashpee Reservation Reaffirmation Act to establish per- manent protection of the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation lands. The Tribe’s reservation was initially established in 2 • www. cs. org
2015 by the U.S. Department of the Interior; however, in 2018 the Trump Administration took steps to disestablish their reservation.
Brazil: Bolsonaro Threatens Indigenous Representation and Land Sovereignty December
Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has taken a hardline stance against Indigenous sovereignty. Almost immediately after his inauguration, he reiterated his campaign promise to break up FUNAI, the government department charged with Indigenous affairs. The dismantling comes after multiple controversial statements in which Bolsonaro compared Indigenous communities living in reserves to animals in zoos. Bolsonaro is pushing an agenda of forced integration, stating that he would not grant any land to Indigenous Peoples.
Costa Rica: Indigenous Ambassador Named to Bolivia November
Costa Rica named Guillermo Rodríguez Romero as ambassador to Bolivia. Rodríguez, a member of the Bribri community, is an attorney and longterm advocate for Indigenous education within Costa Rica’s government, as well as president of the Bribri Territory Development Association and a municipality representative for his county, Talamanca. His appointment reflects President Carlos Alvarado’s commitment to affirmative action to encourage Indigenous representation in Costa Rican politics.
Colombia has expanded three Amazon Indigenous reserves, Puerto Córdoba, Comeyafú, and Camaritagua, ensuring the protection of the 13 Indigenous communities who live in these territories while protecting the Colombian Amazon, a high priority conservation area. The expanded area of 113,103 acres will join the 5 million acres currently protected. The expansion was led by the Indigenous communities inhabiting the reserves and supported by the Colombian government.
South Africa: Historic Court Victory Affirms Communities’ Right to FPIC December
In a historic judgement, the South African Umgungundlovu community has won the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent to all projects on their land. The fight began in 2007 as a challenge to stop a large, open-cast titanium mine planned on their territory; the community suffered threats and violence as a result of their opposition to the mine. The case will serve as an important precedent for placing Indigenous communities at the heart of decision-making processes affecting them directly.
U.S.: New Farm Bill Promises Greater Food Sovereignty for Tribes December
A new farm bill signed into law by President Trump will give Tribes equal authority to states, allowing them to have greater control over food systems and therefore greater food sovereignty. New pilot programs will allow Tribes to choose traditional, healthy, and locally produced foods in government food programs. In a massive show of unity, 170 Tribes joined the campaign for the bill, which has 63 further provisions, including improvements to infrastructure, research funding, and provisions for food security and production.
Advocacy Updates Guatemala: Indigenous Radio Broadcaster Arrests Highlight Lack of Protection for Indigenous Freedom of Expression November
In a raid on a community radio station on November 12, two Maya K’iche’ women were arrested and later charged with the crime of “theft of fluids,” with no legal precedent for radio waves being defined as such. Despite an apparent legislative commitment to Indigenous media access stemming from the 1996 Guatemala Peace Accords, the raid and inflated charges are endemic of a countrywide problem with freedom of expression for Indigenous Peoples, who currently have no legal mechanism for ensuring radio access. Cultural Survival, with two Guatemalan organizations, have a case pending at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as part of a sustained campaign for legislation to facilitate the licensing of radio frequencies to Indigenous communities and stop the criminalization of community broadcasters.
Brazil: Cultural Survival Joins Organizations Opposing Bolsonaro December
On December 27, ahead of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration, Cultural Survival stood alongside a range of NGOs, think tanks, and other civil society organizations to condemn statements made by the incoming president. Called into question were his positions regarding democracy, as well as concern for the treatment of grassroots movements and their possible prosecution under anti-terrorism legislation and assassi- nation of their leaders. The statement also challenges his hate speech, which has targeted the LGBTQ community, migrants, and other vulnerable groups.
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.
Bolsonaro’s positions on the Amazon pose a dual threat to Indigenous communities and climate change. Human rights are also a significant concern, in particular, his advocacy of extra-judicial killings and the proposed elimination of the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Human Rights. Honduras: Seven Convicted for the Murder of Berta Cáceres December
In Honduras, seven men were convicted and one acquitted of the murder of Indigenous rights and environmental defender, Berta Cáceres. In March 2016, the hitmen gunned down Cáceres and Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro, who survived the attack. Cáceres had received numerous threats for her activism in connection with the building of the Agua Zarca dam; construction was going ahead without consultation from the local Lenca community, for whom the river is considered sacred as well as a vital source of food and water. The men found guilty have ties to the dam’s construction company, Honduras-based Desarrollos Energéticos SA. However, the trial and its investigation have been largely criticized by human rights observers and the Cáceres family for failing to take into account evidence that implicates others within Desarollos Energeticos and the Honduran Armed Forces.
Canada: Cultural Survival Stands in Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en People in British Columbia January
Cultural Survival stands with the Wet’suwet’en people after the violent breach of their peaceful checkpoint by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on January 9. The violation of their territory came after a sustained
Community members gather outside of a police station in Totonicapan, Guatemala. Photo by FGER.
protest by the Wet’suwet’en Nation against the construction of a natural gas pipeline against their consent. This pipeline would pass through the Unist’ot’en Camp, founded by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chiefs in 2010 to re-establish traditional Indigenous governance and monitor and maintain authority of their lands. The Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty with colonial authorities, meaning that the federal government operates in a vacuum of authority on their lands. In 2018, a provincial court granted TransCanada access to the pipeline construction site, leading to the creation of a checkpoint as protestors camped out in harsh conditions to prevent construction vehicles from entering. Unist’ot’en Camp is a Cultural Survival Keepers of the Earth Fund grant partner. Read more news at www.cs.org/latest.
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly March 2019 • 3
r i ght s i n a ct io n
Indigenous Peoples March Captures the Worldâ€™s Ear State Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM, Pueblo of Laguna) addresses the crowd at the Indigenous Peoples March. Photo courtesy of Deb Haaland.
Chenae Bullock. Photo by Tracey Roberts.
here is such a feeling of empowerment gained from the unification of Indigenous Peoples. On the morning of January 18, 2019, hundreds of Indigenous people gathered on the steps of the Building of Interior Affairs in Washington, D.C., with one mind and one sound to launch the inaugural Indigenous Peoples March. The day started with a unified prayer and call to all for directions. We each faced each direction together. People were adorned in traditional paints, feathers, and regalia while holding their drums and rattles. The languages in the songs that were chanted were diverse, and there were people of all ages and many colors. The interrelations between Indigenous communities that have been existing for thousands of years continue today, and are what make us so close. We will never be able to accept the borders that are intended to divide us. It was beautiful to see the reunions with hugs and conversations being exchanged between people in the movement. The energy and strength one can receive from that exchange is life changing. There were elders sprinkled throughout the crowd who were also present during the Bureau of Indian Affairs takeover in 1972 on the very same steps. On November 3â€“9, 1972, a group of around 500 members of the American Indian Movement took over the Interior building as part of the culmination of their cross-country journey in the Trail of Broken Treaties, intended to bring attention to Native issues such as living standards and treaty rights. Many of these elders may not have seen each other since that year. Witnessing the joy 4 â€˘ www. cs. org
they had in watching the younger generation continue to stand in solidarity and in prayer was incredibly moving. The strength from the energy of the intergenerational connection, along with the diversity among global Indigenous people, not only brought us together on January 18, but continues to unify Indigenous Peoples globally. Upon completion of the morning prayer, we mobilized to march from the steps of the Bureau to the Lincoln Memorial. The songs and chants that vibrated through the buildings and streets of Washington transmitted a powerful feeling across the world when we began marching that day. We marched to empower the voices of Indigenous Peoples; for the missing murdered Indigenous women and those harmed by police brutality; to honor and defend our sacred lands and waters; to protect our children. With the amount of genocide that is happening in our communities, it is important for the world to see us come together and recognize that what is happening in one community is happening everywhere. Sharing our stories with one another was also eye opening for those who were in attendance. Mainstream media does not have any interest in covering anything we do as Indigenous people, especially what is happening to us. But hundreds of grassroots and underground media groups documented the march and captured so many moments from our perspective. As we funneled down the walkway around the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the shape of the crowd
Alongside the banners calling for the protection of Indigenous lands and rights, marchers advocated for unity and the protection of Native women.
stretched. When we finally reached the stairs of the reflecting pool there were hundreds of people awaiting our arrival. It was beautiful to see the smiles of people’s faces, and we could all feel that our ancestors were among us and smiling also. A few of the nearly 100 speakers included Congresswoman Debra Haaland (D-NM, Laguna Pueblo); Roberto Borrero (Taino); Aboriginal rights activists Kaleesha Morris and Latoya Aroha Rule; Lance Gumbs (Shinnecock Nation); Miss Universe 2015, Ashley Callingbull (Enoch Cree Nation); Sarah Eagleheart (Oglala Lakota) of Native Americans in Philanthropy; Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) of Lakota Law Project; Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) of Honor the Earth; and Ruth Buffalo (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation) of the North Dakota state legislature. Some of the Indigenous artists that participated in the march included Supaman, Hobawea Nahish, Demaray, Terrance Jade, SayLove, Alex Brittany, Phillip Lopez, Stuart James & Jimmy C, Prowess, The Testament, Quese IMC, Doc & Spencer, Clara Kent, Tufawon, OPLIAM, Natanni Means, Reve Kalell, Def-I, NonChalant, and Malik Yusef. The passion of the speakers engaged many people who were just coming to visit the Lincoln Memorial. We, as Indigenous people, are aware of the injustices happening in our communities and have been screaming to the top of our lungs without being heard. This march grabbed the attention of the entire world. The people who were completely unaware are now aware. There are also people who have inquired how can they become involved and help advocate for our causes. The Indigenous Peoples March was the first of its kind and was an event out of the Indigenous Peoples Movement. All who were in attendance at the march, all who weren’t and wanted to be, or any who hadn’t heard of the march until it happened, can all become a part of the movement. The march was just the beginning. The movement is a collective of Indigenous people from nations all over the world, uniting in the stand against issues that harm our lands, peoples, and respective cultures. The oppressors have a mission of silencing our voices, but that will never happen. We will only become louder and bigger. There are issues affecting Indigenous men, women, children, and two spirits. Indigenous people from North, Central, and South America, Oceania, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean are a target of genocide. Presently, many Indigenous people are victims of voter suppression and families are divided by walls and borders. We face an environmental holocaust; sex and human trafficking; and police and military brutality, with little or no resources to fight them and a lack of global awareness of these injustices. There is something to be said about coming together physically. The world we live in has so much technology that
people are questioning why they should take the time to gather in the flesh, in real time. As Indigenous people, we hold a tremendous amount of sacred power, especially when we unite. Technology only allows us to spread this power once we unite. Anyone reading this article is strongly encouraged to share a post, share photos, share videos, become inspired to create art, or write essays and articles on the Indigenous Peoples Movement. Spreading this energy is taking action. It forces those who are turning a blind eye to our injustices to wake up. It also holds those in leadership positions accountable. Many people do not support marches because they do not believe that they are effective. The Indigenous Peoples March was more than a march; it was a gathering to bring together some of the most hardworking people from all over the globe to take action. Grassroots initiatives begin with a few people, but as more and more grassroots efforts come together they will become a global collective—and then something will be done about the issues in our communities. Marches bring the people together, which makes our voices and network stronger, to the point where what we are marching for cannot be ignored. When class and color lines are stripped away and it becomes about about human rights, what’s happening in our communities can become part of global conversations. When elected officials such as Haaland not only attend the march, but speak about the injustices happening in Indigenous communities in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., it is going beyond marching. It’s taking action to the congressional floor. This movement is right on time. The corruption of our own people who are fighting to take the lead in our com munities demands a movement, or else we will perish. The beautiful thing is people are waking up, not only one by one, but in groups. These groups are coming together as one, and the movement is growing larger and larger. The purpose of the movement will be fulfilled. We want to eliminate the borders of our injustices. The pulse of the Indigenous communities around the world demands us to do so.
Photo by Chenae Bullock.
— Chenae Bullock (Shinnecock/MontauK) is a traditional Indigenous woman, water protector, heritage and cultural preservationist, and humanitarian. She was one of the organizers of the Indigenous Peoples March. Follow her at @aponiwind.
To learn more about the Indigenous Peoples March, visit: indigenouspeoplesmovement. com or follow @Indigenouspeoplesmovement.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 5
cl i mat e ch a n g e
COP 24 in Katowice
Indigenous Peoples Achieve Mixed Results Andrea Carmen
fear for my future. I fear for my community.” These words were spoken by Ryan Schaefer, 17, from the Dene Nation in Canada during the first meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP 24) in Katowice, Poland. “Indigenous youth of the world stand before you today to affirm that we share his fears for our future,” said Ruth Kaviok of the National Inuit Youth Council of Canada. Her remarks were part of the opening plenary statement at the International Indigenous Peoples Forum at COP 24 on December 1. It was close to midnight on December 15 when the President’s gavel came down for a final time, concluding two weeks of intense debate. Indigenous Peoples from around the world, including Tribal Nations and organizations whose traditional lands are within the political boundaries of United States, traveled to Poland to participate. Except for a few Indigenous representatives that were credentialed by States, most were designated as “observers” in this UN process, which is led and controlled Indigenous by the 195 countries that signed on to the Paris Agreement Peoples adopted in December 2015 at COP 21. Despite this power and State imbalance within the UNFCCC (and, by and large, the entire negotiators celebrate their UN system), some 100 Indigenous delegates representing all agreement on regions of the world stood united to insist on formal particithe final text pation in this process that impacts us so directly, and to enfor the Local sure that our rights and traditional knowledge are respected Communities in national and global efforts to combat climate change. and Indigenous In Katowice, the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, known as the Peoples International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change Platform at (IIPFCC), met in a weekend preparatory meeting and at least COP 24 in once daily during the COP to discuss strategies and reaffirm Katowice, our collective positions in the face of new developments and Poland. “
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State proposals. Indigenous Peoples began the session by calling on States to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and reverse their fatal addiction to fossil fuels, which are the primary source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The IIFPCC opening statement referenced a recent UN study that reported that at their current rate, emissions are projected to raise global temperatures by 3ºC—a rate that will translate 2 to 3 times higher in the Arctic—and admonished the States for their failure to take meaningful action. The most significant victory for Indigenous Peoples at COP 24 was the formal establishment of the Facilitative Working Group to develop a workplan for the “Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform.” The Platform is intended to strengthen and exchange traditional knowledge for mitigating and adapting to Climate Change, based on paragraph 135 of the Paris Agreement. Difficult issues under debate since Paris included equal participation between States and Indigenous Peoples in the working group, protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge in this process, the definition and identity of “local communities,” and the concerns of some States that their “territorial integrity” might somehow be impacted in these discussions regarding traditional knowledge and climate change. Throughout the negotiations, Indigenous Peoples, accompanied by key allies, held firm on the core issues of rights protection and equal participation. The final resolution, adopted unanimously by the COP 24 Plenary on December 8, reflected this commitment. It also established the working group with an equal number of Indigenous and State representatives, seven each. Additional places will be held open for the future participation of local communities when they are better defined and choose to become engaged. In an historic advance for Indigenous Peoples’ right to participate in decision making as affirmed in Article 18 of the UN Declaration, this is the
first time that a UN body will provide for direct and equal participation. The Facilitative Working Group will begin its work in 2019. Priorities include development of a work plan and structure for the Platform; adoption of rights safeguards to protect traditional knowledge and practices; and development of a budget to ensure support for the participation of Indigenous traditional knowledge holders and practitioners. At least one activity is planned for 2019. Possible discussion themes proposed by Indigenous Peoples include Oceans, Land, and Water; and Food Sovereignty and Forests, reflecting key eco- and knowledge systems impacted by climate change. Despite the general mood of celebration for Indigenous Peoples at COP 24, there were some serious disappointments. A key priority for Indigenous Peoples was the inclusion of human rights and rights of Indigenous Peoples in the “Paris Rulebook,” which had to be adopted at COP 24 to determine the framework and guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement. Unlike negotiating sessions that were held throughout the first week for States and Indigenous Peoples to engage on the Platform decision text, Indigenous Peoples had very little opportunity to participate directly on the development of the Rulebook. Strategy meetings and side discussions were held with human rights organizations, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and States during the sessions to discuss how to pressure States to include strong human and Indigenous rights language. The Rulebook was finally adopted by consensus with seven references using the terms “Indigenous” or “Indigenous Peoples” (including a footnote recognizing the adoption of the new Platform), but making no specific references to human rights or the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Several references to human rights in the President’s draft going into the COP were removed in the negotiations. The final adopted text called on States to develop and report on their “voluntary national contributions” to reduce climate change with the input of Indigenous Peoples “as appropriate,” far weaker than the assurance of full and effective participation as called for by Indigenous Peoples. Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in Michigan) represented the National Congress of America Indians at COP 24 and expressed mixed reactions. “We are gratified that an important milestone was reached in the formation of the local communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform and we express our appreciation to Indigenous Peoples and States from all the regions who worked so hard for this achievement. It is especially important that Indigenous Peoples from each region, using their own procedures, will select their representative on the Facilitative Work Group, which will draw up the work plan for the Platform,” he said. “But, we are extremely disappointed that the commitment in the Paris Agreement Preamble that in all climate actions, the rights of Indigenous Peoples and human rights generally are to be respected and promoted, got lost in the adoption of the Paris Rulebook in Katowice. The references to rights were consciously removed. This shows that we still have a lot of work to do at the UNFCCC to explain the importance of a rights-based approach for addressing climate change. We will continue to raise these issues at COP 25 in Chile, and beyond.”
President of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, meets with Indigenous Peoples representatives at COP 24. Photo by Kera Sherwood-O’Regan.
Indigenous Peoples, especially those from the U.S., took note that the United States government delegation was highly engaged in the discussions and decision-making at COP 24, despite President Trump’s declaration in 2017 that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Although the U.S. was supportive during the Platform negotiations, they were one of only four States that took the floor during the final Plenary of the first week to oppose acknowledging the dire warning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC was invited by the Paris Agreement and Decision to issue a report on the effects of a 1.5ºC increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels. The report, released in October 2018, confirmed the critical need to maintain the strongest commitment to the Paris Agreement’s aims of limiting global warming to well below 2ºC and pursuing efforts towards 1.5ºC. It also detailed the devastating effects of global temperature rise on ecosystems, health, food security, and the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples around the world. Most States agreed that the COP should adopt language “welcoming” the report as a basis for global climate action. However, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait, during the final Plenary of the first week, stated their firm opposition to that language, preferring to merely “take note” of the report. Many States took the floor to express their outrage at the U.S. and others that refused to acknowledge the urgency of taking dramatic action to bring the rate of global warming under control. Indigenous Peoples also reiterated their firm support for a 1.5ºC maximum goal in their closing statement to the Plenary. In the Indigenous Peoples Caucus closing Plenary Statement, Michael Charles (Dine’), a youth delegate, began by introducing himself traditionally in the Dine’ language. “We are deeply disappointed to see the language of human rights missing from the outcome of the Rulebook text,” Charles said, addressing both the advances and shortfalls of COP 24. “We believe that a rights-based approach is necessary to guide an implementation that protects us. This text is incomplete without human rights, and specifically Indigenous rights. . . . We will now embark on a process to breathe life into the Platform using our resilience, knowledge, and rights with equal representation between states and Indigenous Peoples.” — Andrea Carmen (Yaqui), International Indian Treaty Council Executive Director, served on the Global Steering Committee for the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (2010–2018). She was selected to represent North America Indigenous Peoples on the new UNFCCC Facilitative Working Group for the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 7
i ndi geno u s k n ow le d g e Ariel Kootenay (Dakota) of Alberta, Canada at Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) in Minneapolis.
Mni Ki Wakan: Water Is Sacred Wakinyan Skye LaPointe, Lemoine LaPointe, Thorne LaPointe, Laura Sioux Roberts
he growing global water crisis is prompting many world leaders and organizations to respond through a myriad of top-down approaches. Consequently, Indigenous Peoples are often left out of leading global forums and dialogues on water—yet they are often the first to be negatively impacted by escalating environmental issues. For the past two years, an international group of Indigenous Peoples, youth, and allies have responded to these pressing challenges by convening a global Indigenous water summit dedicated to the Indigenous right (also a human right) to water. The Mni Ki Wakan (Water is Sacred): World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit seeks to elevate the voices, perspectives, and solutions of Indigenous Peoples on water issues to unprecedented levels of global innovation. Mni Ki Wakan is an intergenerational, Indigenous-led global water summit centered in the collective wisdom, goals, and actions of Indigenous Peoples, leading with the timehonored theme and mandate that water is sacred. In 2018, there were several developments that worked to strengthen the past year’s Summit. In efforts to uplift and expand the work accomplished by the Mni Ki Wakan participants during its first annual summit in 2017, fivve planning committee members brought the important work of this summit to the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues 17th Session (UNPFII) in April 2018. There, organizer Thorne LaPointe (Sicangu Lakota) announced Mni Ki Wakan: World
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Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit. After meeting with Indigenous Peoples, UN-Water, and UNESCO representatives to explore areas of future collaboration during the Permanent Forum, LaPointe extended an invitation for others on the UN floor to join them at the second annual convening of Mni Ki Wakan. Held in St. Paul, MN, the second summit brought together members of the Innu people from the sub-Arctic region; a Ma–ori delegation from Aotearoa/New Zealand; members of Stoney Nakoda and Cree Nations from Canada; Chamorro of the Mariana Islands and Guam; an Indigenous delegation from Hawai’i; members from over ten North American Tribal Nations; and allies from Canada and the U.S. On the first two days, participants canoed the Okizu (Where the Waters Become One) riverway, a sacred Dakota ancestral river in Minnesota. In recognition of the Indigenous cultural water protocols of the region, each delegation made a traditional water offering according to their traditions in preparation for the following two days of sessions and interactive dialogue facilitated by Lemoine and Thorne LaPointe. Sessions began on August 8 with a keynote address by 13-year-old Autumn Peltier (Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory). Earlier in the year, she spoke at the United Nations on World Water Day, March 22, 2018, calling on attendees to “warrior up.” In her keynote address at Mni Ki Wakan to Indigenous Peoples, youth, and allies from the world community, she said, “We need to act now, as the destruction to the planet is not waiting for us to catch up or stop. I am honored I am here today so we can gather our warriors together and
make change happen and not just talk about it anymore . . . it is not even the people in this room that we must convince; we all know why we’re here. We are the warriors that are trying to create a change, and to push to be that voice for our Mother Earth.” Peltier’s powerful words resonated deeply with each Indigenous delegation and ally as they prepared to develop actionable innovations and transformative possibilities during the sessions throughout the day. On August 9, keynote speaker, Ngaa Rauuira Puumanawawhiti (Ma–ori), who provides policy and strategy advice through the Rights and Interests Unit to the iwi (nations) of Waikato-Tainui in New Zealand, was joined by his delegation in presenting to participants. In part, he spoke about his Ma–ori delegation’s experience in providing a number of rights recommendations to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur, at the Permanent Forum prior to the 2018 Mni Ki Wakan. He shared about one experience in particular related to national water legislation, saying, “Our recommendation [presented to the Special Rapporteur] was that by its [fiscal] year, the New Zealand government make no new investments into fossil fuels. Because we can’t on one hand address the climate crisis, but continue to support the industries that are responsible for the pollution.” Puumanawawhiti described the crucial importance of building a global Indigenous community according to traditional protocols and the need to be innovative in policy. His delegation invited Mni Ki Wakan participants to their inaugural “2020” convening in New Zealand. Their resounding words illuminated the powerful sustainability of Indigenous worldviews in policy and innovation. At the conclusion of keynote addresses each morning, participants engaged in a series of strength-based questions during summit sessions. “What actionable innovations will launch goal-oriented changes to this Indigenous-led water summit?” asked LaPointe to some 50 Indigenous Peoples, youth, and allies, a question that was emblematic of the summit’s tone. Participants provided recommendations for actionable innovations, goals, and consensus for a guiding holistic framework on water, titled, “Mni Ki Wakan: Global Report.” One participant, Uapukun Mestokosho (Innu) from the sub-arctic region of Canada, expressed her experience at the summit, saying: “Each one of us is a drop of water; together, we are an unstoppable force capable of breaking
down all barriers.” Participants shared about the central roles that Indigenous languages and cultural diversity have in restoring and protecting biodiversity across land and water. Key relationships were established that have provided access to untapped innovation and opportunities for collaboration, support, and initiatives. Mni Ki Wakan concluded with a traditional Wacipi and Oskate (dance and celebration) in observance of the Inter- national Day of Indigenous Peoples, where dancers, singers, and over 200 attendees traveled to honor and learn about the contributions of this past year’s Mni Ki Wakan participants. The Global Report is being used by regional coordinators and co-conveners to guide their future work on the upcoming third annual global water summit. Some recommendations gathered during discussion included the use of modern technology for the restoration and sustainable use of water with the integration of traditional ecological knowledge in these approaches. Actionable innovations called for global indigenous water ambassadors. Participants called for a stronger regional, multi-level, cross-sectional, and youthoriented global community. The next Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit will be held in Black Hills, SD, August 13–15, 2019. The location of Mni Ki Wakan is known to the Lakota people as He Sapa (Black Hills), the “Heart of Everything that Is.” The Lakota people believe that He Sapa is the sacred place of origin from which they emerged, appearing as a heart from aerial images. Co-conveners and regional coordinators are working with Lakota team members in South Dakota and will be making a call for session proposals. They invite the world community to attend, and are working with French and Spanish translators for the 2019 Mni Ki Wakan. — Wakinyan Skye LaPointe (Sicangu Lakota), Lemoine LaPointe (Sicangu Lakota), Thorne LaPointe (Sicangu Lakota), and Laura Sioux Roberts (Santee Dakota and Red Lake Anishinaabe) are advocates for Indigenous rights and water rights protectors. Learn more at mnikiwakan.org, or contact: email@example.com.
Left: Promoting the Water Summit around the country. Right: Water protectors Autumn Peltier (Eagle Clan Anishnaabekwe) –ori) were keynote speakers. and Ngaa Rauuira Puumanawawhiti (Ma
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From Little Things, Big Things Come Mark Winne
Sitka totem pole, medicine woman’s face with tear. Photo by Charles Bingham.
otem poles have been a vital part of the Tlingit people’s oral tradition long before Europeans set foot in North America. More recently, the ancient medium has found expression communicating messages of health and wellness on the grounds of a Sitka, Alaska community health center. The totem includes traditional images like the raven, but also carvings of a shaman and medicine woman that address issues of alcoholism, substance abuse, diabetes, and cancer. Statistics are not required to underscore the seriousness of these public health threats, which now include climate change and overfishing. They are easily discernible in the image of the medicine woman, down whose cheek a tear is falling. Sitka is located more than 850 miles by air from Seattle and is one of the most expensive places in the U.S. to buy food. In such a remote place, small things, like herring roe, matter, and big things, like food, cannot be taken for granted. Sitka is home to 9,000 people, who depend on twice-weekly barge deliveries for their food—deliveries that are often delayed by bad weather—and where food insecurity and subsistence foods like salmon, herring roe, deer, and beach asparagus take on profound meaning. Subsistence fishing, hunting, and gathering are necessary to keep a lid on this remote region’s food costs. Not only are prices 35 percent higher than the U.S. mainland average, they are 10 to 21 percent higher than all but the most remote Alaskan towns. People make a mighty effort to grow some of their own food, but the scarcity of even partially flat land and abundance of stony soils conspire against even the most tenacious gardener. At the Saturday farmers’ market at 10:30 a.m. one July morning, almost all the fresh vegetables had been sold; the market had just opened at 10:00. Based on a food survey by the Sitka Local Foods Network, 48 percent of Sitkans hunt and fish, another 24 percent receive subsistence food as gifts or donations, and 57 percent report eating fish or game several times a week. But for Tlingit and other Native people who comprise the 4,000 citizens of the Sitka Tribe (2,500 live in Sitka), subsistence foods are an integral part of their cultural tradition. The region’s land and waters are the provenance not only of the Tribe’s sustenance, but also its soul and spirit. The same survey revealed that 60 percent of the Tribe’s members were not able to consume as much of their traditional food as they want. There are many factors contributing to the decline in subsistence food resources, climate change and limited access to boats and fishing gear by Alaska Natives among them. But the biggest challenge appears to come from the $5 billion Alaska seafood industry, which is meeting the growing worldwide demand for fish protein. In some years, the salmon runs are low and the herring spawn is severely diminished;
Background Photo: Sitka Harbor. Photo courtesy of Richard Ricciardi.
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without those foods Native culture is weakened and individual health is placed at risk. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.3 times more likely to have diagnosed diabetes, and their youth are 9 times more likely to have diagnosed type-2 diabetes. Alaskans, including the state government, generally acknowledge that Native people hold a cultural primacy to the region’s bounty. But that doesn’t mean that Native people are exempt from navigating the confusing maze of federal, state, and private land jurisdictions. Even worse, the regulations governing where, what, when, how, and how much game and fish can be harvested constitute one great Gordian Knot. “We’ve seen a decline in the wild catch, not just for us, but across the board for all harvesters,” says Jeff Feldpausch, director of the Tribe’s Natural Resource Department, who has run the traditional foods program for 14 years while vigorously advocating for the protection of those foods. Expressing frustration with the Alaska Board of Fisheries, which has responsibility for setting various catch limits, he adds, “We’ve exhausted all our avenues. We’re considering other approaches, including . . .” before pausing, presumably not to tip the Tribe’s hand. As much as the Tribe advocates for the protection of subsistence food, they do what they can to harvest food for their people. Over the past year, Feldpausch’s department has gathered about 20,000 pounds of game and seafood that is distributed to the Tribe’s elders, who have priority over other members. While 20,000 pounds may sound like a lot, it doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of the Tribe. Subsistence food in Alaska is only 1 percent of the entire wild harvest, with 98 percent—mostly seafood—caught by commercial harvesters. In the words of Nicolaas Mink, co-founder of Sitka Salmon Shares and a natural resource professor at Knox College, Alaska’s fisheries are part of a “colonial food system,” because most of the catch is going to Asia. One small species that threatens to turn up the heat between the Tribe and State of Alaska is the herring and its roe, an important traditional food. Feldpausch explains, “herring is a critical forage fish for our marine ecosystem, a foundation and bellwether species, but right now we’re seeing the worst herring roe year since 2002. Our Tribe’s elders don’t remember seeing such limited spawning.” According to Alaska Fish and Game records, only 107,000 pounds of roe were harvested in 2015. Harvest figures for 2018 are likely to be lower. Their estimate of the subsistence needs for the region is between 136,000 and 227,000 pounds. Based on an ethnographic study conducted by Portland State University of nearly 200 Tribal members with “local and traditional knowledge of herring populations,” present herring stocks are being managed in a “depleted status” that represents a fraction of their historical abundance. It concluded that lower rates of herring and roe threaten “biodiversity and regional marine food webs” and the cultural life of the region’s
Herring and its roe is an important traditional food.
Native people. According to Harold Marin, one interviewee from the study, “Herring are just so important to the total food chain…they feed everything.” Marin identified the crux of the problem—overfishing by commercial interests, which in the case of herring, sell the roe as Kazunoko to Japanese markets for traditional New Year’s celebrations. The Native method of harvesting roe is to place hemlock boughs just below low tide where the herring spawn. The boughs are then retrieved and the roe removed; the fish is never touched. Commercially, huge quantities of herring are hauled up by seine nets, which don’t distinguish between male and female or their respective sizes. Roe sacs are stripped from the fish cavity, and the dead fish are ground into fertilizer, fish oil, and feed for salmon farms, which, ironically are banned in Alaskan waters. Tribal elders have noted that commercial fishing takes large herring as well as small ones. Their observations have instructed them that the older, large herring show the younger, small ones where to spawn. When such “fish wisdom” is decimated by reckless fishermen, spawning patterns can be severely disrupted. Feldpausch says that the Sitka Tribe put forward several proposals to the Alaska Board of Fisheries to reduce the pressure on the annual herring run. All the proposals were rejected, however, a response he characterizes as “managing the resource for the market, not for conservation.” In light of climate change, it is imperative that marine resources be managed more conservatively. Whether herring roe are the proverbial canary in the coal mine signaling an imminent catastrophe is not certain. But a signal we must heed is the one from Native people who live closer to the earth and animals than we do. If the Tlingit are worried, we should be too. The medicine woman’s tear may not be only for her own people, it may be for all humanity. — Mark Winne is senior advisor at the Center for a Livable Future and is the author of Closing the Food Gap and Stand Together or Starve Alone.
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Left to right: Aaliyah in the Indigenous Renaissance design. Faith models Mixed Blood Proud hoodie featuring Cree syllabics. Sisters Josie and Brace model Mixed Blood Apparel gear.
The revolution will be Mary Newman
lothes have the power to reflect, and at times, alter, the socio-political climate: “You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes,” Diana Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vogue, once said. Apparel also acts as a visual framing for activists, as their personal presentation also presents their cause. Women of the civil rights movement, for example, emphasized Sunday best complete with dresses, hats, and gloves, which highlighted their non-violent activism and echoed their political grace. More recently, the #TimesUp movement used fashion to great effect at the 2018 Golden Globes awards ceremony, where the coordinated black evening gowns gave a funerary edge to the usual glitz. Fashion, whether engaged actively or passively, is a codification of our beliefs about ourselves and the world in which we live. Most importantly, this codification is self-realized: we are both canvas and artist. Denim jeans, for example, are the result of decades of hard-won feminist victories; they narrate women’s liberation, the fight for equal pay, and the escape from the corset. Every time women put them on, they engage with this narrative. Clothing can be dissent, and accessories, advocacy. Around the world, Indigenous designers are leading artistic revolutions. In Ecuador, there has been a revitalization of traditional clothing by younger, modern fashionistas, and with them, modelling agencies celebrating Indigenous beauty
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and a renewed pride in Quechua artistic heritage. Such has been the wave of Indigenous fashion that in 2017 the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian staged “Native Fashion Now,” an exhibit celebrating the work of over 70 Indigenous designers over the last 5 decades. First Nations designers in Canada have likewise been at the forefront of creating modern, Indigenous-inspired fashion with mass market appeal. Last November saw the second annual Otahpiaaki Fashion Week held in Calgary. Fittingly, the theme was “Pride and Protest,” and showcased over 50 designers from 18 Tribal Nations celebrating their communities’ artistic legacies. But the revolution we see approaching in these lines is not purely aesthetic. In Canada, fashion seems to be the barometer for something much bigger, articulated by artisans. “I saw fashion as a way to engage with younger generations,” says Brandi Morin (Cree, Mohawk, and French), who started her own clothing line, Mixed Blood Apparel. When her designs were showcased in a standing exhibition at the Otahpiaaki Fashion Week, Morin had only been running her business for two weeks. “I was on maternity leave from my job as a journalist and had been looking to engage and inspire a new generation. I was frustrated by the adversity faced by Indigenous communities and reading pages of negative statistics. I saw a natural link between language and clothing, with both being means by which we express ourselves. I wanted people to rediscover and be empowered by their heritage. This led me to become a designer and an entrepreneur,” she says. All photos courtesy of Brandi Morin.
Mixed Blood Apparel began with a pair of leggings and Morin’s goal to empower, celebrate, and revitalize Indigenous languages and cultures. “One of my first designs was the Maskawisiw legging. In Cree, maskawisiw means ‘he/she moves in a powerful way.’ The idea was to remind the wearer of their own power,” she explains. Another pair of leggings drapes the wearer in the hand-written stories of Morin’s grandmother. From Indigenous history to Indigenous present and future, Morin’s UNDRIP collection—a reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—is perhaps her most explicitly political collection to date. The UNDRIP leggings have the Cree syllabics for “he/she stands with it.” In Canada, the Declaration has been officially endorsed but remains largely unimplemented. The power of language is emblazoned across the entire line. Morin herself articulates this: “Language is at the very core of who we are. It is more than communicating. It’s how we remember our history and declare our future. Our ancestors passed on traditions and knowledge through language that have been alive for millennia. Language is used to preserve our cultures, cultivate our worldviews [and] self-determination, and express our human rights.” Through bold lettering, she chooses to scream these once-silenced alphabets, so that wearers are empowered while also continuing the revitalization process. “I want these pieces to spark conversations, for the words to be explained and taught. Visually the words are art, adorning the clothes, but they are never purely, passively aesthetic. I encourage you to learn and speak your language in whatever form that takes; whether you learn from your Kohkums and Mushums, your aunties, uncles, or other relatives...if you have no one that knows your other language, then seek it out.” Morin says she has received several emails asking if nonIndigenous people could wear pieces from the line. There is a danger of the “Urban Outfitters effect,” the trickle-down of Indigenous ontologies until they lose their significance and power, becoming a mere adornment to make the wearer look more cultured. But Morin is undeterred: “My line is for everyone, to empower everyone through their culture.” The spirit of the brand is best encapsulated in a shirt with reads “tawâw,” with Cree syllabics above. Translated, the word means “Come in, welcome, there is room.” Morin has received some negative feedback from those who see the shirt as making a contemporary political statement about immigration. But, she maintains her message is about “how we, as Indigenous Peoples, will welcome in everyone—even if that welcome wasn’t shown to us.” At its heart, “there is room,” is very much what Mixed Blood Apparel is about—creating a space for diversity. “Each piece is an opportunity for teaching, sharing. I imagine people asking about what the words mean on someone’s shirt and the wearer explaining the meaning. This is how these languages survive and grow. Now someone else knows a word in Cree or Mohawk,” she says. Even the brand name, Mixed Blood, looks to recognize the diversity of identities across First Nations citizens and beyond. “I see my brand as part of an Indigenous renaissance, one which will be cultural, artistic, political, economic, and spiritual, but ultimately led by artists. This fits into the prophecy given by Métis leader Louis Riel, who prophesied that our people would sleep for 100 years and
that artists would reawaken them and return their spirits.” Looking at the rise of Morin’s line and Indigenous fashion in general, it becomes evident that a revolution is growing: one that champions diversity and encourages Indigenous entrepreneurship, listening to the past but without ever losing sight of the future. “Indigenous Peoples are less likely to be selfemployed than the rest of the population. In the next two decades the Indigenous population in Canada is likely to exceed 2.5 million. Can you imagine the incredible impact if more Indigenous Peoples became business owners?” Morin asks.
Designer Brandi Morin (second from left) with models in her designs at a fall 2018 fashion show.
Morin, in the Mixed Blood Apparel website’s manifesto, describes the current moment as a renaissance. “I dreamt of the word ‘renaissance,’ and I believe a lot in dreams, so when I woke up I looked up the word and it fit perfectly with what was happening, with what I was trying to do. This is an Indigenous renaissance.” The Renaissance period changed our concepts of art and beauty and left humanity permanently altered. It was a period of self-reflection, but perhaps most importantly, self-education. People began to be aware of the rich legacy of the past and used it to improve the future. The Renaissance pushed us into new ways of thinking, acting, and being. “In the International Year of Indigenous Languages, nothing seems more appropriate than recognizing the value of Indigenous languages and cultures, with the charge led by the artists,” Morin adds. Morin’s new collection debuts in March, and her work will also be showcased at an Indigenous Fashion show coinciding with the Western Canada Fashion Week. The revolution is coming, and not just in Canada. And this revolution has a dress code.
Check out Mixed Blood Apparel at mixedbloodapparel.ca
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 13
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Launching the International Year of Indigenous Languages with Bolivian President Evo Morales (Aymara) at the United Nations in New York on February 1, 2019. Photo courtesy of Mirian Masaquiza Jerez.
Keeping the Indigenous in the International Year of Indigenous Languages Richard A. Grounds
n the first day of February 2019, a High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations was held in New York to mark the global launch of the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL). As I stood with an international group of Indigenous participants in the back of the grand assembly hall waiting for a photographer to capture the moment, I found myself next to the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who is the first Indigenous Aymara to lead Bolivia in such a high office. Morales had just delivered a powerful opening address to the august assembly formed of representatives from both nation states and Indigenous nations who were gathered from around the world. He had clearly named the oppressive colonial processes that are so crushing for our Indigenous languages, cultures, lands, and lives. The Plurinational State of Bolivia, along with Ecuador, had co-authored the UN General Assembly resolution for the International Year, naming UNESCO as the lead agency. Those formal actions had resulted in this big moment, thrusting the urgent global crisis for our Indigenous languages onto the world stage. I was struck by the poetic asymmetry between the small beginnings when we first started calling for an International Year of Indigenous Languages and the big results now on display at this UN launch event. Since the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held its first session in 2002, I had been working with like-minded delegates to promote Indigenous languages. It was not until the 2016 Permanent 14 • www. cs. org
Forum meeting on Indigenous languages that my call for an international year was joined by other language experts and picked up by influential voices on the Permanent Forum and eventually declared by decision makers at the General Assembly level. Like a pebble repeatedly dropped into the global discourse at the Permanent Forum, we kept coming back year after year to promote what was only now grow- ing into a full wave sweeping around the globe in the form of this International Year. After 16 years, I was reminded of the well known insight from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The celebration of Indigenous languages on a global stage should not be allowed to obscure a clear picture of the extreme challenges for Indigenous Peoples and their languages. There can be no greater threat to the existence of a people than the eradication of their language. Dispersed in seven continents, Indigenous Peoples consist of less than six percent of the total world population, while speaking nearly 70 percent of the 6,700 languages in the world. More than 2,000 Indigenous languages are critically endangered with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. Therefore, the vigor of the language among the youth is the most critical indicator for the cultural health and political sovereignty of Indigenous nations. Our languages have been targeted for direct assault for centuries— particularly through legal structures and massive investment in boarding schools. UNESCO has estimated that a language is lost every two weeks somewhere around the world. These are not natural deaths.
And that was precisely why we had kept pushing for a special year. The call was born from this devastating crisis that so few know about, the silent implosion of Indigenous languages all around the globe. And certainly, you can’t get help with a problem if no one knows about it. The magnitude of the challenge means we will need lots of help from lots of partners and stakeholders—even as we have had lots of help descending into this present predicament. To put it in an ethical frame, the level of investment in keeping Indigenous languages alive should be commensurate to the vast sums spent by governments and churches to fund boarding school systems designed to destroy our languages. Of course, the arrival of the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019 is not an end in itself. It is a UNdesignated calendar event that does engage some attention by UN bodies. It is up to all of us to create new partnerships and possibilities under this banner. But the Year does not arrive with additional funding to support Indigenous language work. It is only set up to be run within existing budgets of UN agencies, and it comes with familiar colonial overtones, prerequisite academic agendas, and state-dominated structures. At the launch of the International Year at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on January 28, we were not to be surprised when the very first session dedicated to the IYIL failed to follow its own printed agenda that called for an Indigenous ceremonial opening. Never mind that a Cree Elder and language warrior had travelled all the way from Canada to provide an opening that would have foregrounded an authentic Indigenous voice as the very first public act to begin this special Year. This is mentioned here not to rehash some mistaken oversight, but solely because it is emblematic of a larger and ongoing pattern. The pattern is echoed in the fact that the Indigenous Year was established without an Indigenous co-chair to help insure Indigenous perspectives and leadership—despite strong recommendations from the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus. Likewise, a steering committee with Indigenous members only took shape after the action plan was already formed. Perhaps the most striking is the complete absence of intellectual self-critique, evidenced by the large lacuna in the official call for research papers “within the context” of the International Year. Organizers had failed to address the most relevant context of all: the oppressive colonialism that is choking our languages, while at the same time soaking up all the available funding—as is the nature of colonial relations. Indeed, millions of dollars are being spent on Indigenous languages every year. Unfortunately, 99 percent of all Indigenous language funding, in my broad estimation, is going to the endless study, housing, publication, and dissection of our rich languages. This means that the longstanding pattern of funding Indigenous language work has hardly budged from the old, unquestioned arrangements set up under raw intellectual colonialism. The priority in the colonial model is always to document and collect raw Indigenous materials that can be taken away, processed in Western intellectual mills, and stored in colonial capitals rather than investing directly in living Indigenous communities and their knowledge systems. We don’t want to end up with just another International Year for the Study of Indigenous Languages. There is little to
Desired outcomes for Keeping the INDIGENOUS in the International Year • Promote the declaration of an International Decade for Indigenous Peoples’ Languages as proposed by Grand Chief Willie Littlechild • Contribute to funds that target community-based language immersion programs such as the Indigenous-led Global Indigenous Languages Fund • Support regional and global conferences to disseminate best practices for revitalizing languages and give special awards to Eminent Elders and Youth Language Warriors as role models and to elevate public awareness and to keep the focus on Indigenous community activism • Implement an active system of language triage that prioritizes the most endangered languages in order to keep as many individual Indigenous languages viable as possible, including dedicating a desk within UNESCO
be gained by alienating academics or other potential supporters. But the absolutely critical outcome for the Year is the growth of new language speakers within our Indigenous communities in order to ensure the life of our languages for generations to come. This is particularly urgent for our most endangered languages and will require significant funding to be directed to those language communities in greatest peril. We must grow new culturally competent language speakers in our communities so that we will continue to have the inner capacity to restore and reinvent our traditions in ways that are healthy and life-nurturing in the face of the constant and corrosive forces of colonialism. Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano has framed the challenge negatively, “Blatant colonialism mutilates you without pretense: it forbids you to talk, it forbids you to act, it forbids you to exist; invisible colonialism, however, convinces you that serfdom is your destiny and impotence is your nature; it convinces you that it’s not possible to speak, not possible to act, not possible to exist.” Akile ch’oh, Grand Chief Edward John (Tl’azt’en Nation) pointedly stated at the UN High-level Meeting in New York, “We have voices, we should be heard. We are visible, we should be seen. We are here, we should be included.” Indeed, there are many agendas and diverse interests represented in a global project like the International Year of Indigenous Languages. And, yes, this is what we knowingly signed up for. Now it is important for Indigenous Peoples, working together with supporters and stakeholders, to seize the moment and lay claim to the Year. It is with a genuine spirit of openness and engagement that we welcome these interminable tug of war games, as we hope to shift a little more rope to the Indigenous side of the colonial inequation. As we say in Yuchi, “gOchathla gO’wAdAnAha Ôk’ajU TahA Ôk’âfATAnô (Working together, we can move our Indigenous languages forward!).” — Richard A. Grounds, Ph.D. (Yuchi and Seminole) is chair of the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus, served as the expert for the North American Region at the UNPFII meeting on Indigenous Languages in 2016, and is executive director of the Yuchi House. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 15
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A New Generation of Yuchi Speakers Halay Turning Heart
e have reached a pivotal point in the life of our language: for the first time in nearly a century, a new group of children are speaking Yuchi as a mother tongue. Our Yuchi people are the keepers of a unique language, identified as a language isolate by linguists. This means that Yuchi is unrelated to any other language and is one of the world’s most ancient and richest languages, carrying eons of cultural knowledge, history, and a different perspective on the world. For over a hundred years, under immense oppression, our Yuchi people have been counting down the number of Yuchi speakers with fewer speakers each year. The decline of the language has been from about 24 native speakers 20 years ago, to 6 speakers 5 years ago, to now only 1 fully fluent elder speaker. But for the first time in this long history of overcoming oppression, including the so-called Trail of Tears, government boarding schools, and English-only legislation, we are finally counting forward and adding first language speakers to the list. The founder and director of the Yuchi Language Project, Richard A. Grounds, Ph.D. (Yuchi), realized years ago that the elders’ heartfelt dedication alone would not be enough to save the language; the community needed an intentional methodology and a language habitat to create new speakers that could fully embody the language of our elders. Sustained immersion with children at the Yuchi House has allowed for the successful breath-to-breath transmission of the language.
yUdjEha nÔtsOlAhA yUdjEhalA yalAnÔk’âya Language stop sign outside the Yuchi House marks the Yuchi immersion habitat.
At the Yuchi House we turn back toward the Yuchi way gOlaha (Grandmother) Maxine was raised speaking Yuchi by her grandmother, and she is the last fully fluent speaker of her generation. As the matriarch of the Yuchi language, gOlaha
Maxine is an inspiring and amazing woman. We call her gOlaha because she is like a grandmother to all of the children in the Yuchi Language Project. At 93, she is very active and dedicated to sharing her wisdom, even driving herself to language classes at the Yuchi House. She often says that she believes gOh@nTOnA (God) has given her long life so that she can fulfill her purpose of sharing her Yuchi stories, songs, and language with the children. The Yuchi House in Sapulpa, Oklahoma has become a home for the language where Yuchi people ages three months to 93 years come together every day to live in the language and embrace yUdjEhalA, the Yuchi way. Without a steady funding base, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit program relies on grants and donations to keep its doors open. Despite proven methodology and community engagement, the Yuchi House can only create new speakers with operational funds. Children are the quickest learners, but also the quickest forgetters, so a lapse in funding could jeopardize the promising progress being made. We started a Master-Apprentice program in 2002 that enabled the fluent elders to directly engage younger second language speakers in immersion for two to three hours a day. In my early teens, I was among the first group of Yuchi apprentice learners gifted with the opportunity to visit fluent elders in structured home visits, and it was through this process that I saw exponential growth in my own language development. Master-Apprentice was a natural process of learning in which we lived in the language with elders doing tasks together like cooking, sewing, and cleaning. That experience helped to prepare me for the current journey of raising my own children solely in the Yuchi language. As the number of fluent elders dwindled, we modified the Master-Apprentice approach to a small group of learners with one elder. We realized that the most valuable cultural asset is the elders’ time. Through this process, the program has developed over 16 new second language speakers who are competent to teach the language. These young people are now the instructional staff for the ongoing immersion programs that work with babies, preschoolers, and school-aged youth on a daily basis. This cohort of young people are effectively the bridge between the fluent elders and the new generation of first language speakers. The key is that many of the second language speakers are also young parents who use the language at home with their own children.
The language lives in community After years invested in adult learners, we eventually realized we needed to start with younger and younger children in 16 • www. cs. org
All photos by Yuchi House.
Students gather around Elder Maxine for story time at the Yuchi House.
order to achieve our goal of creating new native speakers of Yuchi. To develop first language speakers we like to begin immersing babies while they are preverbal, before their worldview is formed by English. The gOnE (baby) class was started in July 2018, in which up to 10 toddlers are paired with an energetic group of young adult second language speakers for a half-day immersion program. The instructional staff are all language learners of varying levels. One of our significant strategies for success has been using the learners as teachers so that they learn rapidly and can directly apply what they are learning in real time. We do not see the gOnE class as an end in itself, but as a support for families who are speaking Yuchi at home. The progress of the babies and toddlers has been an exciting journey. We were first encouraged when they showed signs of comprehending Yuchi very early—they could use baby sign language, point to body parts, and perform actions when prompted. Then came the joy of hearing their first words in Yuchi, like @w@^ (“take it off ”) and KAdaTA (“that’s enough”). Now most of them are beginning to play and communicate their thoughts and desires through Yuchi, and even reprimand each other, saying, hôn@ n@chup’@dû! (“no, don’t be rowdy!”). The language is truly alive when the youngest learners come together. At this early age, they are learning how to be in the world through the Yuchi cultural lens. They will be the bearers of our ceremonial language, which they can someday pass on to their own children as a mother tongue.
yUdjEhalA KAlA nÔk’Âgû
Bringing the language home My own children are part of the toddler immersion class at the Yuchi House. Before they were born, I made the radical commitment to speak only the Yuchi language to them. Even in the womb, I began speaking to them in Yuchi because I wanted them to be Yuchi first. I know they will become many things in their lifetimes, including eloquent English speakers, but the Yuchi worldview will be what enables them to stand strong wherever they go in the world. I knew my son Chaské ashtalA was internalizing the Yuchi language when he began speaking Yuchi in his sleep—he was dreaming in Yuchi. The language was in his subconscious and at every level of his being. Now that he is almost three years old, he can articulate those dreams to me in Yuchi. He tells me, badOlA k’ala
Elder Maxine, 93, and Chaské ashtalA, 2, are the eldest and youngest Yuchi speakers.
dOw@^ jî (“last night I had a dream…”). I’m amazed by how much he knows intuitively in the language that has not been “taught” to him. That’s the beauty of immersion and getting the language to young children while their brains are ripe for language development. As Indigenous people, it’s important for our family language to be decolonized and set apart from the colonial worldview of English. We maintain a butterfly garden and feel especially connected to the monarch butterflies because in some ways their annual migration pattern, which is critical to their survival, mirrors our journey to restore the endangered Yuchi language. To kick off 2019, the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, ten of us from the Yuchi House drove 1,200 miles south to see the butterflies in their winter home near Mexico City. It was a spiritual journey to see the millions of monarchs at their nesting grounds after they had traversed 3,000 miles over four generations. During their migration, the younger generations are flying to a homeland they have never seen but they believe exists because of the legacy of their ancestors. Similarly, the children in our gOnE classes are the first native Yuchi speakers in four generations. They are rebuilding a Yuchi speaking community that they have never seen, but that our elders once lived. Our ancestors have brought our language this far, and now it is up to us to bring it home. — Halay Turning Heart (Yuchi) is project administrator at the Yuchi Language Project.
Learn more about the Yuchi House: www.yuchilanguage.org.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 17
I n d i g e n o u s L a n g ua g e s Mukayuhsak Weekuw
The Children’s House Jennifer Weston
right sunlight streams through a bank of windows, illuminating a circle of 23 preschool and kindergarten children holding hands. Having just finished reciting the days of the month and discussing the day’s weather and season—all in Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) language—the students giggle and sway slightly, then become still as the older students, 4- and 5-year-olds, launch into a lengthy morning address reaffirming Tribal values and homelands and giving thanks for their ancestors. Wide-eyed 2- and 3-year-olds watch intently as their venerated teachers and peers effortlessly recite a complicated list of commands exhorting the tiny school community to “Be respectful! Be honest! Be compassionate! Be humble! Be brave! and Be grateful!” Next door, Mukayuhsak Weekuw’s (The Children’s House) inaugural cohort of first grade students makes tobacco offerings and prays with their teacher. In forthcoming academic years, students will be encouraged to stay at the immersion school through fourth grade. Each weekday since Mukayuhsak Weekuw’s launch in September 2016, teachers and students from four Wampanoag Tribes in southeastern Massachusetts have met together at this private immersion school on Cape Cod—marking the first time the Wôpanâak language has been used to educate Tribal children for the majority of the learning day in more than four centuries. Located in the town of Mashpee, the school is a point of pride for citizens of all member Tribes of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project: the Assonet, Aquinnah, Herring Pond, and especially the Mashpee Wampanoag, who have generously donated beautiful classroom space and facilities support for school operations. Students arrive each morning to loving Wôpanâak language greetings from a team of Montessori-trained educators, and after sharing prayer together, they launch into an intensive work session spanning nearly three hours. Lessons across the two classrooms’ curriculum areas are given primarily in Wôpanâak language, and even children who arrive with little or no knowledge of Wôpanâak soon develop a strong comprehension of basic concepts and commands. “Watching this project development over the years has been like seeing your dreams unfold before your eyes. The success of Mukayuhsak Weekuw has given me a profound sense of peace in knowing that our future generations will have the one thing that I was lacking as a Wampanoag child— the irreplaceable connection between our Native language and our culture,” says Dawn Blake Souza (Assonet Band Wampanoag), a recent board member and grandmother and great-grandmother of a few of the students in the program. Wôpanâôt8âôk (Wampanoag Language) is one of more than three dozen languages belonging to the Algonquian language family. Through the processes of colonization, forced religious conversion, laws against the use of the language, and mainstream education, the Wampanoag language ceased to be spoken around the time period of the mid-19th century. 18 • www. cs. org
Mukayuhsak Weekuw students visit Wampanoag Chief Vernon Lopez for his 96th birthday to sing "Happy Birthday" in Wôpanâak.
There were no fluent speakers of the language for six generations, over 150 years. With a goal to revive the language, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project began in 1993 under the direction of jessie ‘little doe’ baird (Mashpee Wampanoag), who earned a master’s degree in Algonquian Linguistics from MIT in 2000. Now, Wôpanâak is the first American Indian language to be reclaimed with no living speakers for many generations. “Our language is what keeps us connected to our ancestors, people, land, Creator, and all of our relations. Without language we are not a Tribe or Nation. It’s important to pass our knowledge and teachings down to our youth for future generations of Wampanoags to come,” says Brian Moskwetah Weeden (Mashpee Wampanoag), the Language Project’s board vice president. The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project operates Mukayuhsak Weekuw, a full-time Montessori language immersion school, for 25 children from preschool through first grade, with plans to add additional grade levels in subsequent years until the students reach grade 4. The Project also offers once weekly school-based programming in the public elementary schools, and daily World Language Credit bearing courses at the local middle and high school for grades 8–12. Community and elders language classes are also held weekly in Mashpee, and in several other communities throughout the year, including Aquinnah, New Bedford, and Quincy, MA. The school operates according to core practices based in Tribal values and elicited from Tribal elders, medicine people, clan mothers, and community leaders through focus groups and survey series. Deep gratitude and respect for Wampanoag ancestors’ courage and perseverance here in Tribal homelands lie at the heart of our language community, and we give thanks All photos by Mukayuhsak Weekuw/WLRP.
daily together through a recitation called Our Affirmations. The cultural practices encompassed in these affirmations guide our teaching, our community relationships, and our leadership at the Language Project’s immersion school. All language programming is centered around ceremony and prayer, with a focus on enhancing community wellness, developing cultural resilience, and strengthening Wôpanâak identity through traditional cultural practices. Our population of language students grows annually, and over its 25-year history, the Language Project has provided free language education to more than 1,000 among the 4,200 citizens of the four Tribes who govern our work. As of 2018, we have instructed 20 preschool students, 55 elementary (K-6) students, 15 high school students, 80 elders, and 65 community members. We employ seven full-time language teachers and work with three linguists as contractors, and an additional three teachers certified by the Language Project volunteer to offer community language classes. The ongoing survival of the revived Wôpanâak language depends in part on the future success of Mukayuhsak Weekuw students. The school empowers its students academically, and to persist in revering and protecting the same homelands that have sustained the Wampanoag Nation for the past 12,000 years. While the language lay dormant—or sleeping—for more than a century, dedicated Wôpanâak language instructors lead students across four separate local schools in building proficiency and literacy. The teachers, in turn, are led in their own ongoing language journeys by the Language Project’s fluency coach, Nitana Hicks Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag), an educator who followed her mentor, baird, to MIT to study Algonquian linguistics. Greendeer went on to earn a doctoral degree in curriculum design and instruction from Boston College, and has been instrumental in framing the Language Project’s curricular approach of incorporating both Montessori pedagogy and Culture Based Education grounded in Wampanoag cultural practices and local landscapes. Wampanoag linguists like Greendeer, baird, and baird’s daughter, Tracy Kelley, now herself a linguistics graduate student at MIT, along with Tribal leaders, are supporting a resurgence of bilingualism for Tribal families in part through sustaining and expanding Mukayuhsak Weekuw as a private, inter-Tribally operated school. But Mukayuhsak Weekuw is just one of a host of revitalization efforts sponsored by the
Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, including elders’ classes, family classes and immersion camps, language enrichment programming, after school classes for Mashpee’s two local elementary schools, and two World Language Creditbearing courses held daily at the Mashpee Middle and High Schools. For the first time in centuries, Wôpanâak language usage across all generations of Tribal families is growing. “My heart soars when I listen to my 4-year-old grandson teach his older sister how to express concepts that she has missed out on while attending a traditional public school,” says Souza. “I also love to watch the interaction between my son and his young child as he blossoms into a strong, proud, Wampanoag, who is confident and comfortable in being himself.” — Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota, Standing Rock Sioux) is project director for the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. With Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund support, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project will construct a mixed-use yurt structure in Mashpee to serve as a combined classroom, performance, and gathering space for the growing community of Wôpanâak language teachers, students, and families. WL R P t e am : Our Montessori-trained Mukayuhsak
Weekuw classroom directors are Siobhan Brown (Mashpee Wampanoag), Stephanie Lopez (Mashpee), Camille Madison (Aquinnah Wampanoag), and Tia Pocknett (Mi’kmaq). Our school nurse/nutritionist is Jennifer Harding-McKeithan (Herring Pond Wampanoag). Eleanor Coombs-Jackson (Mashpee Wampanoag) and Melanie Roderick (Assonet Band of Wampanoag) serve as Mukayuhsak Weekuw after school teachers, and as educators in the Mashpee Public Schools. Nitana Hicks Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag) works as WLRP’s fluency coach. Tracy Kelley (Mashpee Wampanoag) serves as an after school and community language class instructor. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Vice-Chairwoman jessie ‘little doe’ baird continues to volunteer as a community language instructor and longtime WLRP linguistic director. Learn more about the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project at wlrp.org.
Mukayuhsak wear Tribal regalia as they prepare for their last day of school celebration, June 2017.
Mukayuhsak Weekuw school photo in Spring 2018. Photo by Cortney Lopez Photography.
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly December March 2018 2019 • 19
I n d i g e n o u s L a n g ua g e s The Making of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)
Celebrating a People and a Language Ivan Encelewski
“Innovation isn’t always about creating new things. Innovation sometimes involves looking back at our old ways and bringing them forward to this new situation. So, for the young people going forward today, I encourage you to understand what it means to be who you are, to understand where you come from, to know the teachings of your people, including your creation story. Because that is the foundation of your life, and you will be able to fulfill that purpose in many different ways.” — S enator M urry S inclair ( O jibway ) from C anada
The making of Never Alone with Iñupiaq elders.
laska Native people have been innovating for thousands of years. Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) embraces the idea that by knowing our past we can shape the future. CITC is a leading Alaska Native social service nonprofit with the mission of connecting Alaska Native individuals to their potential and increasing self-sufficiency. In 2010, CITC decided to pursue mission-aligned investments that could celebrate the cultures, stories, and languages of Alaska Native people, create unrestricted revenue streams as a form of selfdetermination, and inspire Alaska Native youth, the stewards of CITC’s future. CITC spent two years exploring investments ranging from culturally appropriate burial services to traditional real estate investments, but nothing felt right. After much exploration and internal discussion, they determined that creating an impact video game based on Alaska Native people and culture had the potential to successfully accomplish all of the goals they had outlined. Across the planet, people spend over three billion hours a week playing video games (and billions more watching them being played). Video games empower players to take on different identities and explore diverse worlds, cultures, and stories. They are immersive and interactive, giving players
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Never Alone game cover.
the agency to make decisions and explore the consequences. Many Alaska Native youth, like youth throughout the world, are gamers—but none of the games they played reflected their cultures. In 2012, CITC’s Board of Directors formed the first Indigenous video game company. Given that CITC had no experience in video games, they had to start by finding the right partners. As they researched the space, one name kept coming up: E-Line Media. E-Line’s management team had extensive experience in both the commercial video game business and the emerging impact game sector. CITC management invited E-Line’s founders to Anchorage to explore the possibility of a partnership. E-Line made it clear that investing a few million dollars in a single video game had great potential, but it was also an extremely high-risk investment. Through their initial discussions, CITC and E-Line found they had aligned goals, so they agreed to collaborate on approaches to reducing the risk. Together, they researched Indigenous representation in commercial video games, which predominantly yielded examples of appropriation, caricature, and sampling without context, and in other media, like music, graphic novels, and movies, including successful projects like the movie Whale Rider. They also researched the market All images courtesy of Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
potential of independent video games that explored meaningful themes and new perspectives, and spoke with e-store curators and influencers to gauge their interest in an Alaska Native game. The feedback was clear: there was interest in bringing new perspectives to the medium, but it needed to be done at a high-quality level—good intentions would not be enough. Together, CITC and E-Line concluded that if they could attract a team of experienced, passionate game developers with previous commercial success to collaborate with Alaska Native Elders, writers, storytellers, and community members, and if they could engage key distribution partners and influencers, the project could be significantly de-risked. Through a partnership with Upper One Games and E-Line Media, CITC greenlighted investment in their first video game, Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa). The game is based on a story that has been passed down for thousands of years. It is a two-player
Ishmael Hope interviews his uncle, Willie Goodwin, Jr., as he recounts stories about his life as a Coastal Iñupiaq. Photo courtesy of neveralonegame.com.
cooperative game (reinforcing the theme of interdependence), and there was much debate over choosing a boy or girl as protagonist, and a wolf or fox as the companion. The process required constant community feedback, transparent communication, and a continual balancing of creative, cultural, and commercial needs. The finished game is in the Iñupiaq language and features 26 mini-documentary interviews with Iñupiaq community members, which players can unlock through gameplay. Released on November 18, 2014, Never Alone has touched a nerve globally. It has been featured in over 1,000 publications, downloaded by over 3.5 million players, selected for over 75 “Best of 2014” Game Lists, and won multiple awards, including a BAFTA and “Game of the Year” at Games for Change. The game has been released across nearly every major gaming platform, most recently on Android and IOS mobile devices, where it was selected by Apple as Editor’s Choice in the App Store. Never Alone is not a game made about the Alaska Native people; it is a game made with the Alaska Native community. In addition to the millions of gamers who have played the game and watched the embedded documentaries, an independent marketing analyst concluded the game has been exposed
to over a half a billion people worldwide—reinforcing the original impact objective of sharing, celebrating, and extending Alaska Native culture, stories, and language with a global audience. The impact has also been deepened through use of the game in educational and other cultural contexts. Never Alone has been distributed with a classroom guide to all school districts in Alaska. Classrooms throughout the world, from grade school to graduate school, have incorporated the game into their curricula. Never Alone has been showcased in many museums, currently in the Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the China Academy of Fine Arts, and the Smithsonian, and at hundreds of conferences, including the World Economic Forum at Davos. There have been multiple films about the making of Never Alone, including those by The New Yorker and the Future of Storytelling. Both CITC and E-Line continue to receive weekly inquiries about Never Alone. Most impactful are the emails, phone calls, and in-person feedback received from individuals who have been deeply touched by the game, as well as those who have been inspired to share, celebrate, and extend their own cultures, stories, and language through video games and other media. The impact goes beyond the game itself, however; Never Alone was just the beginning. We know that our youth are more connected to technology than ever, so CITC is moving further down the path of impact investing through games and technology to ensure that they are not only connected to technology career pathways, but leading the way in the age of digitalization. A 2007 study by the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska estimated the number of fluent Iñupiaq speakers to be less than 2,150 individuals. Other Alaska Native Tribes have even lower numbers of fluent speakers, like the Dena’ina, who have an estimated 50 fluent speakers. CITC recognized that a video game could not be the sole source of language learning, but designed it to spark curiosity. Never Alone is narrated entirely in Iñupiaq, through the voice of the late James Nageak, with subtitles in 16 languages. With over four million downloads to date, this means people across the world have heard an endangered language, and millions more have heard it through YouTube, videos, and news stories. CITC and E-Line continue to deepen their partnership. The two organizations are now developing more impact games together and are considering a sequel to Never Alone and a potential movie based on the game. Together, they are also exploring the development of an impact game investment vehicle for impact investors interested in bringing new voices and perspectives to the medium. They have already launched a new game project with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The partnership has extended beyond games to collaborations on other impact initiatives, such as creating “fab labs,” community facilities with powerful digital fabrication tools, and “world building,” where individuals collaborate to create research-informed, aspirational, but achievable futures for their community. — Ivan Encelewski, executive director of the Ninilchik Traditional Council, is Board chair of Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s Board of Directors. He is a member of the Ninilchik Tribe and a shareholder of Cook Inlet Region, Inc., and Ninilchik Native Association, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 21
I n d i g e n o u s L a n g ua g e s How the History of Linguicide
Threatens Indigenous Peoples in Asia Today Patricia Wattimena
Lumad students call to end Martial Law and save Lumad schools in Mindanao. Photo by Carlo Manalansan.
n Asia, the centuries-long history of political subjugation of Indigenous Peoples has severely damaged their identity through linguicide. Even today, many governments and private sector actors are still using assimilation to hinder the struggle of Indigenous Peoples to maintain, revitalize, and preserve their languages. Across the region, recognition of Indigenous rights and identity as reflected in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is almost non-existent—let alone recognition of their languages. The case of the Ainu in Japan is a clear example of linguicide. Struggles of the Ainu to bequeath their language started during the Meiji Era, specifically in 1899, when the government introduced the assimilation policy and subsequently banned the use of Ainu language along with traditional hunting and gathering practices. Ainu children were restricted from using Ainu names and forced to adjust to the Japanese school system. It took more than 100 years for the Japanese government to legally recognize the Ainu as Indigenous Peoples with a distinct culture and language and outlaw any form of discrimination against them. With less than 15 Ainu speakers left, questions remain over how to reverse the decline of the Ainu language over the last century. In the Philippines, Lumad leaders have taken the initiative to prevent irreversible language loss since the Philippine government fails to provide a culturally appropriate education for their younger generation. For decades, they have displayed perseverance by providing education for their children as a way to maintain their cultures and languages and defend their ancestral territory. However, in 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte
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publicly threatened to bomb Lumad schools, labelling them as insurgents and supporters of the anti-government guerilla force, the New People’s Army (NPA). Surrounded by heavy military presence, there have been 284 attacks on Lumad schools. To date, 26 schools have been commandeered for use as military camps, and an additional 72 schools have ceased operations, affecting more than 2,000 Lumad students. The number may increase due to the recent extension of Martial Law in the Mindanao region. At the moment, even the running of daily operations, such as holding classes, is extremely challenging. The cases in both Japan and the Philippines illustrate how the push for capital growth destroys Indigenous communities. Militarization in Mindanao chiefly ensures that the interests of predominantly foreign-owned mining and logging corporations are met with no resistance, and put a premium on profit-driven interests of multinationals at the expense of Indigenous communities. Japan’s Meiji restoration was also a prelude to the militarism that Japanese society embraced during earlier half of the last century. Schools at this time aggressively shaped the identity of young generations, including Indigenous youth and children, towards a homogenous society with absolute loyalty to the emperor. Halting the Decline According to Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), the largest Indigenous Peoples’ alliance in Indonesia, more than 800 Indigenous languages are spoken in the country. To safeguard these languages, AMAN is boosting efforts to promote
youth-led Indigenous education systems across the country. Leadership of Indigenous youth is critical. One such place taking the initiative to revitalize Indigenous language is Haruku Island, on the Maluku archipelago in the eastern part of Indonesia. Local leaders have urged the Moluccan government to include Haruku language in the formal education curriculum. Revitalization has been a response to the language’s erosion, which began as early as 1546. Accused of paganism by their colonizers, Haruku people were forced to stop traditional ceremonies and use of their Indigenous language, making their language endangered today. One elementary school in Haruku is working to reverse
the tide by allocating time for Haruku language classes. In addition to the community-driven plan to create a Haruku language dictionary, the first annual storytelling competition was launched last year. Community-led revitalization initiatives as taken by Haruku people are a reflection of their resilience and need vital support from the government. — Patricia Miranda Wattimena (Haruku from Indonesia) is programme associate of Breaking Out of Marginalization (BOOM) at Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, and the former advocacy coordinator at Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact in Thailand.
Returning to Udmurt Roots Bogdan Anfinogenov
orn in small villages in Udmurtia, my parents are Udmurt and are fluent in Udmurt. When I was born they spoke to each other in Russian; everyone around me—kids on the playground, at school, teachers, and everyone on TV—spoke Russian. In my childhood the only place where people spoke Udmurt was the village where my maternal grandmother lived, the place where the Udmurt language is alive. It is there that I learned polite expressions like “тау бадзым” (thank you very much). As Russian-speaking children, we did not have Udmurt lessons and Udmurt literature classes at school. When I was about to go to high school I started to develop a keen interest in Udmurt culture, and when I moved to Izhevsk I had an eye-opening experience: the phenomenon of Buranovskie Babushki emerged. They were the first band to sing Viktor Tsoy [1980s Soviet singer and songwriter who cofounded Kino, a popular and musically influential Russian band] songs in Udmurt. It was a boom that completely changed the perception of the Udmurt music. I always knew that I am Udmurt, but I was not interested in my native culture because it reached a point of stagnation when I was young. When the boom happened, I was thrilled that traditional Udmurt things could be connected to something modern like electronic music or English words. I felt empowered. I read a lot of books about Udmurts, about the most dramatic moments in their history, about the language loss. I felt so bad for being 18 and not knowing my native language. The representatives of the old generation used Udmurt to talk to each other, and in a moment, when turning their attention to us, would switch to Russian. They did it deliberately, and we, as kids, did not find it strange. I never asked myself, “Why does my grandmother speak some foreign language I don’t understand, and why does nobody teach me?” One day I bought a dictionary and read it in a single evening. Then I tried to read books in original Udmurt despite the fact that I did not know the language. At that moment I was so inspired, I had a burning desire to learn it. I started listening to Udmurt radio, to the old popular songs, although I did not like them. Gradually I figured out how to spell words, what the language structure is. The period when I started identifying myself as an Udmurt speaking person began when I met
Bogdan Anfinogenov performs in Udmurt.
representatives of a youth organization in Shundy. At exactly the same time, I met the guys who played for the Udmurt punk rock band, Amiso Wott. It was much easier for me to talk to them, as they did not make fun of my accent. I have been writing poems since childhood. When I became interested in Udmurt, I started including Udmurt words in my Russian poems. When I issued a bilingual book of poems, I faced a lot of criticism followed by a creative block. Sometimes Udmurts treat their language as something fragile that cannot be touched. People can’t see the language as a commonly available and real tool. They don’t treat it as a hammer that can be used by everyone, they just see a crystal vase. But the language can be quite flexible; you don’t have to be afraid of changes, otherwise it remains just a museum piece. Now, all of my projects are connected with Udmurt. I can’t imagine my creative work without it, and I hope my kids will live in a more Udmurt-speaking world and use the language more often. As for my grandchildren, I do believe they will watch Udmurt cartoons, movies, soap operas, and the language and the culture will become a full-fledged part of the life in our republic. — Bogdan Anfinogenov (Udmurt) is a musician and poet and Ph.D. candidate at the Udmurt Institute for History, Language, and Literature. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 23
I n d i g e n o u s L a n g ua g e s Installing Apps to Instill
Kichwa Kañari Pride Juan Carlos Solano
As part of the Andean agricultural ritual cycle, Quilloac community members celebrate Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, which celebrates Kichwa language and culture. Photo by Juan Carlos Solano.
he community of Quilloac is located 20 minutes from the urban center of Cañar Canton in Ecuador. Based on archaeological remains, Quilloac is said to be the area where the Kañari culture was born. Kañari are an Indigenous Peoples who have traditionally lived in the modern provinces of Azuay and Cañar. Our mother tongue is Kichwa, which is part of the intangible cultural heritage of Ecuador. Although Kichwa is one of the most widely spoken languages in South America, it is considered an endangered language due to its many dialects. Through the constant efforts and support of leaders and community members, the Instituto Superior Pedagógico “Quilloac” Bilingüe Intercultural was founded to protect and revitalize the ancestral Kichwa Kañari language, a dialect of Kichwa. Since 1996, when we began conducting research, we have noticed a lack of interest of children and young people in the use of their mother tongue in the community. The decline has to do with the excessive migration of parents abroad, along with globalization and mainstream media. Many parents give greater importance to the English language because they think it is better for job opportunities. In recent years, technology, specifically smartphones, have become an indispensable tool for the inhabitants of the Quilloac community. Most applications are configured for use in Spanish and English, which further minimizes Indigenous languages and the interest in maintaining them. As a father, I have observed how my 3-year-old son, as well as my nephews, neighbors, and fellow community members, are attracted to the games installed on their phones. As a teacher in the community, I see every day how children respond to animated cartoons designed by for profit companies. We must be aware that by using these devices, stereotypes of ideologies different from our reality are reinforced. With the goal of generating renewed cultural pride in our children and reinforcing the need to speak Kichwa, I started a research unit to create an animated character that will be
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used in a radio and television series, as well as other interactive media such as a mobile game. Members of Instituto Bilingüe Quilloac will create an app for mobile phones that teaches the Kichwa language to 300 children ages 3 to 5 in a fun and captivating manner. The children are excited to know that the character will dress in their native clothing. What they have not been told is that the dialogue of the characters will be in Kichwa—we want that to be a surprise. For the first time, children will be able to have a smartphone with interactive games in their mother tongue, with characters and landscapes that identify them, generating curiosity and motivation to resume the use of the Kichwa language. We want to influence the recovery of their self-esteem and pride of belonging to the Kañari culture. We also want to raise the world’s awareness of the process of extinction threatening the Kichwa language, and to highlight our experiences and traditions in order to give renewed relevance and status to the Quilloac community. We thank Cultural Survival for considering and helping to activate in our community the recovery of ancestral wisdom. By stimulating interest in the Kichwa language into the community’s youngest demographic, Comuna Instituto Bilingüe Quilloac hopes to implement a rebirth of the Kichwa Kañaris’ ancestral language and traditions. — Juan Solano (Kichwa Kañari) is research unit coordinator at Instituto Superior Pedagógico “Quilloac” Bilingüe Intercultural. Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund is supporting Instituto Superior Pedagógico “Quilloac” Bilingüe Intercultural’s project on strengthening the ancestral language Kichwa Kañari through the use of interactive materials, including mobile apps designed for children ages 3 to 5.
HandSpeak: Signing in Limbum Melvin Songwe Shuye
du lies in Cameroon’s western high plateau and is home to the Wimbum Tribe, which consists of three clans: the Warr clan, headquartered at Mbot; the Tang clan at Tallah; and the Wiya clan at Ndu. The three clans are geographically interspersed but share the Limbum language. Limbum is a Grassfields language of Cameroon with a small number of speakers in Nigeria. It is primarily the mother tongue of the Wimbum people, who live in Donga-Mantung division of the Northwest Region at the top of the Ring Road. “Li” means language and “mbum” refers to the speakers. Limbum is therefore the language of the Mbum people, who are referred to as Wimbum. Today, Limbum has approximately 130,000 speakers; 85,000 of these live in Ndu municipality with most of them being Limbum speakers. With modernization and increasing urban exodus, Wimbum youth are forgetting cultural values imbued in ancient folktales, riddles, and proverbs, and little or no effort has been made to promote Indigenous language proficiency among hearing and speech impaired persons, rendering them further marginalized and increasing their vulnerability in their communities. In effect, persons with disabilities, especially hearing and speech impairments, are suffering twice. While Indigenous language literacy is gaining in popularity in the local communities, sign language has not really found its place among Indigenous Cameroonian languages. Translations of Indigenous language alphabets, numbers, and words have yet be explored, preventing hearing and speech impaired persons from being able to fully appreciate the linguistics of their native tongue.
To help combat this trend, we are currently working on a Wimbum Sign Language Project with interpretation and translation primarily from American and British Sign Languages. Our goal is to give Wimbum people the opportunity to learn about their cultures and history. The direct beneficiaries of our project are women and men with hearing and speech impairment from the 17 villages in the Ndu municipality. Sign language teachers will develop community-oriented curricula, including proverbs, folktales, and other frequently used Limbum grammar that can serve the hearing and speech impaired, their families, and caregivers. United Youths Organization is a human-centered, talentpromoting, youth-led NGO that seeks to improve the livelihood of vulnerable youths and their families, with or without disabilities, through innovative programs at the grassroots level. United Youths plays a frontline role in harnessing social change, sexual reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, and promotion of gender and disability inclusion. We are partnering with the Ndu Municipal Council and the Association of Persons with Disabilities to ensure sustainability of the project. With the inclusion of these materials into the curricula of most native language literacy centers and community libraries and archives, the Limbum language and Wimbum cultural values can be maintained for future generations, even among the hearing and speech impaired. With the training of Indigenous sign language teachers, the signing of basic Indigenous words and phrases can always be taught among the hearing and speech impaired in schools, churches, and other social groups in the community. Our project aims to raise awareness on the need to develop Indigenous sign languages so as to be able to transmit cultural values to the hearing and speech impaired, and other persons with disabilities. — Melvin Songwe Shuye is CEO and president of the United Youths Organization. Photo courtesy of The Eye Newspaper.
A presentation in Limbum with interpretation into sign language by a volunteer. Inset: Melvin Songwe signing E raa wE a (“Good Morning”) in the Limbum language. Photos by Melvin Songwe.
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly December March 2018 2019 • 25
s t af f s p o tlig h t
Blooming Words In the Winds of Fire Ja n´ääw n´ayuujk ku ja pujx ëëpë pujx käpxpë y´äwijy Sócrates Vásquez Garcia (CS STAFF)
he birds were singing in the avocado tree, the roosters were fluttering, dogs were barking at the people walking by, while the community authority played the mañanitas (morning announcements) on the loudspeaker: “Those who need the Nixtamal Mill service can come now.” All this happened while I was prep- aring the task that my father had assigned the night before, fetching the firewood. In a change of plans, as frequently happens, my father was now sending me to Tuknëm for a different task—“So that you learn something . . . in the university you do not learn everything,” my father said that morning. It was July 10, 1997, and I had just finished my studies in agriculture in the Universidad Autónoma Chapingo. I did not know about courses and workshops, but I really did not want to go back to carrying wood, so I chose to go to Tuknëm (Tamazulapam, in Spanishified Nahuatl), a neighboring municipality of Tlahuitoltepec, Mexico. Grandparents say that the Peoples of Tuknë’ëm, Xaamkexp, Tukyiom, Puxkixpyë, and Kumukpë’të (Tamazulapam, Tlahuitoltepec, Ayutla, Tepuxtepec, and Tepantlali) descend from a single family of five brothers who went to occupy the five places strategic for the defense of the territory. We know this to be true because until 2008, a single presidential resolution of the territory was shared; that is, we were a unified people. At the time I did not know what all this was really about, but it turned out to be a training of community journalists in radio broadcasting and communications; learning how to
take pictures, talk into the microphone, use a video camera, and put together a newspaper. Being in a village different from mine and seeing my peers doing a community television exercise at one of the first community television stations in the country sparked my interest to continue. I already had experience with radios and turntables, and in 1998, at Universidad Autónoma Chapingo’s radio station, XEUACH, my Zapotec and Mixe colleagues and I produced “Chapingo Indígena,” a weekly radio show in our respective Indigenous languages. In 1999, Odilón Vargas Pérez invited us to a meeting to share his experience of radio broadcasting with a single watt transmitter, which he had recovered from people who visited the School of Music. Pérez had tried several times to start a radio station in the community, sending productions to the Indigenista radio stations (public radio stations operated by the Mexican government aimed at Indigenous communities) and in the Oaxaca state stations. This is how we got involved in doing a live television broadcast exercise on Tlahui Channel 6,
Performing Ayuuk music live at Radio Jënpoj.
Sócrates Vásquez Garcia (Ayuuk) on air at Radio Jënpoj in Tlahuitoltepec Mixe, Oaxaca, Mexico. 26 26 •• www. w ww.cs. cs.org org
a process that led us to consider the importance of this medium for promoting Indigenous cultures. It took a lot of effort to do a 2-hour broadcast, including a lot of equipment and many people, but we persevered with the idea of starting an FM radio station. It was during the student strike of 1999 at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico that one of most significant movements at the end of the 20th century, Radio Ke-Huelga, was born: a university radio station managed by students in Huelga, which became an inspiration for other stations. That is how Radio Jënpoj started broadcasting. Thanks to the expertise of Radio Ke-Huelga, it was possible to launch the station in Tlahuitoltepec Mixe, Oaxaca. Now, after 18 years as an Ayuujk (Mixe) radio journalist, I see and hear many radio stations born in similar ways; some with the purpose of defending Indigenous lands, others to promote Indigenous cultures, others to say what they are not allowed to say in other places. As a radio team, we began to understand the importance of communication for and about communities. It is not only operating the station—it is speaking our languages and naming things from our perspectives and our visions, who we were, who we are, and who we want to be as a people. Radio is an ideal tool for our peoples, whose cultures are very much based in oral traditions. Today, we share our experience in the management of Indigenous community radio, with all of the organizational, economic, programmatic, and legal implications. We are always looking for opportunities to weave the word with radio from Oaxaca, Hidalgo, and Guerrero, among others, to reaffirm that as Indigenous Peoples and communities, we can unify. According to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, the Indigenous population in Mexico in 2015 was just over 12 million. There are 68 Indigenous languages spoken in Mexico with 364 variants belonging to 11 linguistic families, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Article 4 of the Constitution recognizes what we have demanded for decades: the right to administer, operate, and manage our own means of communication, recognized as the use of radio frequencies in Article 67 of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law. However, two factors have prevented these rights from being exercised and implemented. One is the historical relationship with the Mexican State, which has been to the detriment of Indigenous Peoples. We harbor a legitimate distrust of the offers of federal regulation of frequencies. The other is that Indigenous media remains a marginal priority for regulatory authorities, since commercial media that serves economic interests dominate their interest. Campaigns have been waged to discredit community media, and obstacles to legal access of radio frequencies have been put in place. We also believe that there is a lack of knowledge of the current law, which has caused community radio stations not to request official licenses. In the Registry of Granted Social Concessions of the Federal Institute of Telecommunications, 50 community broadcast licenses have been issued in Mexico. Only seven of these are granted to Indigenous stations. Regarding the issue of security and the full exercise of our rights to freedom of expression, we continue to find incidents of violence toward community and Indigenous media. In the All photos by Sócrates Vásquez Garcia.
The State of Indigenous Radio in Mexico On January 30, 2019, Cultural Survival released a report on the situation of Indigenous radio broadcasting in Mexico. A study was conducted to obtain indicators on Indigenous Peoples’ right to communication in Mexico and to find out how many Indigenous communities operate radio stations; how many concessions were granted to Indigenous communities since the passage of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law in 2014; and to obtain data on the different organi- zational models, in addition to the needs and challenges that Indigenous communities face in operating a radio station. Read the report at: tinyurl.com/mexicoradioreport.
case of Indigenous radio stations in Mexico, those that hold licenses are not guaranteed sustainability, since the law has restricted the ways in which stations can raise funds through the sale of local advertising. On the other hand, radio stations such as Naxme in San Miguel del Progreso, Guerrero, continue to fight against mining, or the dispossession of territories for wind projects, like Radio Totopo in Juchitan, Oaxaca, and others, such as Xochixtlahuaca Guerrero, who battle against the local despotic powers, rely on the support of their audiences to sustain the stations. One issue central to all of them is the need for training and quality content. The needs of the stations are diverse; nevertheless, Indigenous radio is a necessary alternative to mainstream media. CulturalSurvival SurvivalQuarterly Quarterly March 2019 • 27 Cultural
c ommun it y m e d ia g ra nts partner s potl i ght
Program Researcher Marianne Vries and Program Manager Catherine Wiese on air at Valley FM.
P romoti n g K hoi s a n Voice s
ommunity radio station Valley FM broadcasts from the picturesque town of Worcester in the Western Cape in South Africa. In 1998, Valley FM applied for a radio broadcast license, but only in December 2003 did they obtain it. The station broadcasts to listeners of the Breede Valley, Witzenberg, and Langeberg municipal areas on a wide range of perspectives, views, and opinions on issues of local public concern, stimulating critical thinking and engaging listeners to improve their quality of life. Reaching over 180,000 listeners, most being descendants of Khoisan people, Valley FM broadcasts in three languages: Afrikaans, isiXhosa, and English. The Khoisan—referring to both Khoi and San groups— include five main groups: the San, Griqua, Nama, Koranna, and the Cape Khoi. Colonialism and apartheid dispossessed the Khoisan of their land and destroyed their culture and language. Khoisan matters are seldom raised in mainstream media, and when they are, the mainstream media provides mostly sensationalist coverage. In response, Valley FM “initiated information and education programs focusing on Khoisan matters in response to listener requests,” says station manager Francois Marais, adding that the station “provides a platform for Khoisan leaders to engage with listeners, for activists to promote language and culture, and for healers to transfer knowledge about traditional medicine. We strive to keep our listeners informed about policy discussions and debate. It is envisaged that funding for our activities would enhance the scope of our radio current programs,” he says. The Khoisan in South Africa continue to face serious violations of their human rights. The 1996 South African Constitution does not officially acknowledge Khoisan as Indigenous Peoples or their status as a First Nation. The new democratic dispensation did not bring many changes to the status of Khoisan people, who are still classified as “coloured,” just as during apartheid. The South African government has not ratified ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and fails to comply with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. 28 • www. cs. org
Marianne Vries (center back) with Khoisan guests at Valley FM.
With a Cultural Survival Community Media grant in 2018, Valley FM produced 12 radio episodes to develop Khoisan leadership and use Khoisan voices to speak about identity, plant and medicinal knowledge systems, language, human rights, and international movements. “Our collaboration with individuals within the Khoi and San community realized programs that are informative, interesting, and varied,” says Catherine Wiese, program manager, citing an interview with Petrus Vaalbooi, leader of the San community, as an example. “We highlighted current challenges facing the San community, creating an awareness of the frustrations when communities are marginalized, excluded from participation in processes that should address their situation and improve their living conditions.” As part of the station’s initiative encouraging listeners to know more about their Indigenous heritage, Valley FM made a program on Indigenous heritage sites such as Ratelgat, Khomani San, Footprints on Nahoon Beach, Pinnacle Point of Human Origin, and !Kwattu San heritage site. In addition, they recently conducted an interview with a representative from a traditional cultural nonprofit, Griqua Royal House, about the unveiling of a statue of Adam Kok, a leader of the Griqua people in South Africa, on Heritage Day. “Our Heritage Day radio program highlighted the current debate around the eradication of the term ‘coloured’ and the history of ‘camisa’ as preferred name, as well as the advocacy process to influence stakeholders and government to change the term ‘coloured,’ ” explains Wiese. The focus of other recent programs includes Indigenous Knowledge Systems. “We interviewed Professor Jeremy Klaassen from the University of the Western Cape on the challenges to ensure that Indigenous communities benefit. Relating to policy, we interviewed Leslie Jansen, discussing the Indigenous Knowledge Bill enacted towards the end of 2018, its implications for Khoi and San communities, as well as mechanisms to protect and maintain Indigenous knowledge and related knowledge and the instruments to exercise these rights through customary laws, practices, and values,” says Wiese. All photos by Valley FM.
Couching twisted raffia into barkcloth.
B a z aar artist:
brings back memories of activities of our great grandparents.” Nabagesera adds that art “has brought unity among the women. It instills a communal aspect that has always been present, but now we work as one family and we are happier.” Gaining access to markets has had real impacts for the women. “I have managed to train others so that they can earn a living too,” says Nanziri. For Awori, greater access has meant “[widening] my production capacity and giving employment to women in my community.” Birungi adds, “I was able to acquire a bigger location for my production.” Most of the products made by ArC artists are crafted from barkcloth (tree bark), a raw material made from the Natal fig tree, native to Uganda and locally known as Mutuba. Barkcloth is culturally important to Ugandans; it is used in burials and worn during coronations or cultural ceremonies, as well as being used as fabric for curtain or beddings. The production process for harvesting bark does not harm the environment and promotes tree bark regeneration. Sustainability is ArC’s major goal, and to this end, the collective has planted 650 Natal fig trees on 3 acres in Uganda. The trees facilitate water retention in the soil while the leaves have medicinal properties, used for treating sore throats, whooping cough, influenza, and dysentery. Awori says that climate change is posing a new set of challenges for the collective members. She explains that “climate change affects barkcloth production, as barkcloth cannot be harvested in the rainy season.” Afri-root Collective is committed to supporting the East African craft-making industry to promote cultural and environmental awareness, and to educate consumers about using their purchasing power more responsibly. As a socially responsible business, ArC supports its workers by reinvesting revenues to train them, expand their skill sets, and create positive working conditions so that they may become self-sufficient. ArC measures its social impact by providing increased employment opportunities for women who want to develop marketable skills. Cultural Survival Bazaars “are a platform for our artists to display some of their work,” says Nakandi.
Barkcloth hand stitched with raffia strand.
Placemats and table runners made of raffia and viscose threads. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2019 • 29 Couched pouch.
All photos by Ritah Nakandi.
fri-root Collective (ArC) is a social enterprise that empowers Ugandan women artisans who use sustainably harvested tree bark and other natural materials like raffia, banana bark, and jute in their work. ArC’s goal is to enable talented Ugandan women who experience social and economic hardship to become financially self-sufficient by providing training opportunities in handicraftmaking, and to find international markets for their products. Among ArC’s 80 current members are Christine Nanziri, Alice Awori, Grace Birungi, and Milly Nabagesera, who are Baganda and Acholi. The women describe their processes: “I cut recycled papers in different shapes, use glue to make beadwork for necklaces,” says Nanziri. “I use screen printing and then hand stitch with raffia. Also I sew twisted raffia on barkcloth,” Awori says. “I use a wooden assembled mechanism to weave the raffia and viscose threads” comments Birungi. “I cut out different patterns and colors of African fabric and sew it jointly as patch work,” says Nabagesera. ArC was founded by Ritah Nakandi in 2013 after she completed a masters degree in business management at Cambridge College in Cambridge, MA. Upon meeting with artisans in Uganda, she developed a passion for finding trade markets for their crafts internationally. ArC initially emerged as an online platform. “I was a member of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Association, an organization that supports women entrepreneurs. One of our responsibilities was to travel to rural areas and train, mentor, and counsel women to start, sustain, and grow their businesses. I met women in urban and rural settings, and was intrigued by the creativity and hard work that each of these women instilled into running their businesses. The women who made hand crafted items had one major problem, which was limited market for their products,” Nakandi says. Craft-making is a vital activity in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, both culturally and economically, and many women rely on it for their livelihoods. Likewise, art is also relevant to the women’s cultures. “It gives me joy to see the creativity that I am passing on to my nieces and siblings,” says Nanziri, while Awori defines art as “a great medium of communication within ourselves as a community. It depicts my cultural history and
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