Native Village 

Youth and Education News

September 1, 2007 Issue 179  Volume 2

"...the taking of the Black Hills [from the Lakota] is the most ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing ever perpetrated on a people by the United States government." United States Supreme Court, 1980

Young Chilean keeps nearly extinct languages alive
Chile: When the Spanish arrived in Chile, 11 tribal languages were spoken: Quechua, Aymara, Rapanui, Chango, Kunza, Diaguita, Mapudungun, Chono, Kawesqar, Yagan and Selk'nam. Today, only the first three remain. Joubert Yanten is changing that. The 16-year-old youth spends his spare time learning tribal languages. His obsession began at age 8 after a school project about Chile's native groups. "It frustrated me that no one really saw the magnitude of the extinction of an entire race in the south," he said.  By using dictionaries and audio cassette tapes, Yanten became only living speaker of Selk'nam. He also speaks fluent Spanish and Mapudungun and is semi-versed in many other languages. But his love of linguistics doesn't end with words; he also composes songs in Selk'nam. In an effort to popularize traditional native music, he is fusing it with modern electronic beats, and working on a demo CD with friends.  "I've always believed that the spirits of his ancestors are with him," said Yanten's mother, Ivonne Gomez. "He goes through many changes of voice and of mental state."  Yanten has teamed up with Fuego Ancestral (Ancestral Fire), a group promoting the culture of Tierra del Fuego indigenous through documentaries, musical presentations, talks, and workshops on traditional medicine. Yet lack of financial support has frustrated Yanten and those who work to preserve Chile's indigenous heritage. "It's unfortunate that in our country, culture gets no support," said Juan Carlos Avilez, an anthropologist who watched Yanten's performance at a Santiago museum. "Not only should the state be helping this special boy, but a university should study and work with him."
photo credit: Jeff Ross

Rancher, linguist working to preserve native language
North Dakota: Experts believe Edwin Benson, a 75-year-old horse rancher, is the only living person who speaks fluent Mandan. For past three summers, Benson and California linguist Sara Trechter have worked together recording and transcribing Mandan folk stories and social and cultural customs. Trechter has had to master some quirks of the language -- for example, a bird is said to "stand" while flying, but "sit" when perched on a tree.  Some words or phrases simply defy translation into another tongue.  Trechter also works with the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara cultural preservation office on the Fort Berthold reservation. Their goal is to produce language labs materials for the reservation, ideally with the videotapes of Benson telling his stories in Mandan with transcriptions on the bottom of the screen.
Associated Press

Cherokee artist America Meredith puts words on wheels
California: It started as a summer project in 2004.  Now there are hundreds of them: laminated cards with Cherokee words and pictures in the bicycle spokes of bicycle messengers across the world. The project, "Cherokee Spokespeople," was created by America Meredith, a Cherokee/Swedish artist from San Francisco. Meredith, 35, worked as a bicycle messenger for 10 years.  She gives away her illustrated cards to members of the close-knit international bicycle messenger community who send her back a photo or video of the card in their city.  In this way, Cherokee words have spread to Tokyo, London, Zurich, Tapei, Aukland and other cities. "According to Cherokee Nation tribal leadership, our current generation, the fourteenth since European contact with the Cherokees, is said to be the generation that decides whether the language grows or dies," said Meredith.  She hopes her "Cherokee Spokespeople" will help make this generation the one in which the language grows stronger. "It's all about connection," she said.
Cherokee Spokespeople:

Bounty mutineers' language preserved by UN
Norfolk Island: Half of Norfolk Island's residents are descended from the HMS Bounty mutineers. Now a campaign is underway to preserve Norf'k, their unique hybrid language. Norf'k, or Norfuk, is among the world's rarest languages. It is under threat because islanders are marrying outsiders and because of TV and radio from neighboring Australia and New Zealand. Norf'k, a blend of 18th century English and Tahitian, will be featured by UNESCO in the next edition of its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing.

Watawieh: Hello All yorlye gwen? How are you all?
Kushu:  I'm fine I car foot:  I don't know
Fut you ally comey diffy and do daffy? : Why are you behaving that way? I gwen out yena f'porpieh: I'm going out yonder to get some guavas
Da nufka se tow in em moo'oo: That kingfisher has settled in the flax Wan kau f' mais bradhas s' orf aut : My brother's cow has escaped

Audio report:

Students Help Save Native Language
Wyoming: Tribal elders estimate there are only 10 years to save the Northern Arapaho language. Students in a University of Wyoming Northern Arapaho language class recently won grant money for better teaching tools.  Funds will be used to improve DVDs containing lessons from elders, create a student workbook, and hire native artists to design culturally appropriate line drawings for a coloring book. "Northern Arapaho is not just a language, it's a way of being and a way of living that couldn't be needed more than it is now," said course instructor and tribal elder Wayne C'Hair.

College receives grant for Ojibwe language and culture program
Minnesota: The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth has received a $1,190,000 grant to support its Ojibwe Language and Culture Education program. “Graduates of the OLCE program will not only be able to better understand and communicate with native students, they will also be able to educate non-native students about the American Indian community,” said Valerie Tanner, assistant professor of education at St. Scholastica. The new grant will support 10 students interested in teaching and working in the American Indian community. The grant will also support area teachers who integrate the Ojibwe culture, history and language into Duluth Public Schools' K-12 curriculum. The Washington Post has rated St. Scholastica among the nation’s 100 “hidden gems” among U.S. colleges and universities.
College of St. Scholastica:

Learning A Second Language: Is It All In Your Head?
Wisconsin: A new study links the brain's anatomy to the ability to learn a second language in adulthood. Northwestern researchers  measured the size of HG, a finger-shaped structure in both the right and left side of the brain and found that the size of left HG, but not right HG, made the difference. The study is the first to consider the predictive value of a specific brain structure on linguistic learning even before training has begun. The study appears in the online journal, Cerebral Cortex.

River kayaker seeks 'Grandmothers'
Minnesota: Beginning September 3, author Nancy Scheibe will kayak the waters of the Mississippi gathering stories from women she respectfully refers to as "Grandmothers." "Grandmother is a term I borrowed from the Native American culture," she said.  "It's an expression of respect. It recognizes the wisdom gained from life experiences. It has nothing to do with the fact that you might or might not have children or grandchildren." Throughout the journey, Scheibe will hold nine gatherings. At each stop, Scheibe will record oral histories told by women ages 50 and older.
For more information and a complete list of Scheibe's scheduled stops visit

"Native" book on 7th-grade list a "slap in the face"
"The Education of Little Tree" by Forrest Carter remains on several school reading lists. The 1976 bestseller told "the true story" of an orphan raised as a Cherokee by his grandparents in Depression-era Appalachia. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a whopper of a literary hoax:
Forest Carter was neither an orphan nor a Cherokee but instead a white supremacist ;
Carter was a member of the KKK. The group he helped found, the Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy, attacked Nat King Cole onstage during a 1956 Birmingham concert;
Carter wrote Alabama Gov. George Wallace's "Segregation Forever!" speech;
His real name was Asa "Ace" Carter.
Carter's widow later told Publishers Weekly that "Forrest Carter" was an impostor.

Indian educator Rosa Winfree said many teachers assign the book without researching it or considering authentic Native American alternatives. "They try to be inclusive, but this is the worst book in the world they could choose," said Winfree. "This is not the way to go about it. If you don't know something, ask someone who does."  Ruth Revels, Lumbee, agrees. "Ignorance is less and less of an excuse," she said.  "I'm 71. I'm tired. Every time we go forward, we regress again. Would you assign 'Little Black Sambo' for black children to read? Imagine."

Alberta residential school reunion brings together memories, pain
Alberta: Former students of the Holy Angels residential school recently gathered for a reunion, shared tears and painful memories. Then they heard something unexpected from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Sgt. Fred Kamins apologized for the police force's role in Canada's residential schools.  "As a proud Canadian, I am ashamed that our country's history — a proud history of meeting adversity and challenge — should be tainted by this tragic chapter," Kamins said.  RCMP officers had to track down students who had run away. They also arrested parents who refused to send their children to the schools. Kamins said that as early as 1984, officers went on the record protesting their enforcement of the residential school system.  George Martin, 64, was a Holy Angels student who cried himself to sleep every night. He said it's time to forgive and let go of the pain.  "There's nobody that can give us that back, what we lost here," Martin said. "But we can always get it back among ourselves."
CBC News

Native Hawaiian groups form history coalition
Hawaii: Some of the state's largest and most influential Native Hawaiian organizations have formed the Hawai'i Pono'i Coalition to educate the public about the truths of Hawai'i's history. "I think there's a lot of effort by (opponents of Native Hawaiian rights) to share their interpretation of what happened during the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy," said Hawaiian activist, Vicky Holt Takamine. "A lot of people don't really recognize that the overthrow was illegal by the United States.  it's not enough just to take our government and annex us illegally to the United States, but then to take away our resources that can provide economic and educational benefit for Native Hawaiians on top of that?" The Hawai'i Pono'i Coalition was named after Hawai'i's national anthem written in 1874 by King David Kalakaua. HPC begins its efforts with a celebration of the 169th birthday of Queen Lili'uokalani on September 2.  Among  the coalition members are Kamehameha Schools, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Queen Lili'uokalani Trust and Learning Center.  "I think there's a consensus among most of the groups that we should be entitled to have our own programs and use our own lands to educate our own people," Takamine said.

ALA Inaugurates its First American Indian President
Dr. Loriene Roy has been installed as president of the American Library Association.  Roy, who is Ojibwe, hopes that the ALA and academia will help her combat challenges faced by tribal youth, including a lack of access to resources.  Roy wants tribal students to become more computer literate, families to make reading a fun, lifetime activity, and help schools hire librarians who make the library system the “heart of the whole school.”

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