Friday, May 23, 2008

A language dies when you don't have children learning it at home

"A language dies when you don't have children picking it up in the home," says Scott DeLancey, a University of Oregon linguist.

Here in America's Northwest, there are signs policymakers are beginning to take some notice. Last May, the Oregon State Legislature passed a resolution honoring Ms. Johnson's grandmother, Gladys Thompson, for her efforts to teach Kiksht and "her dedication to the preservation of Indian ways."

In 2006, the National Science Foundation awarded $5 million to support efforts to digitally record more than 60 endangered languages around the world. Included was $263,000 to document stories and conversations in Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, spoken along the Alexander Archipelago in Alaska and islands off British Columbia.

"At least it's a validation of the implications of what is to be lost," says Patricia Shaw, director of the First Nations Languages Program in Vancouver, British Columbia.

...Read more aboutPacific Northwest indigenous languages

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Makah Indian Nation's proposal to hunt gray whales has fewer negative impacts than five of six alternatives considered in a draft federal study released May 9.

Stumble It!

The National Marine Fisheries Service conducted the study of the possible impacts of Makah resuming gray whale hunts, in response to the nation's request for a waiver of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is accepting public comment on the study until July 8.

NMFS developed alternatives to consider based on Makah's proposal and on comments submitted at public hearings in 2005. One of the alternatives is to take no action on Makah's request - essentially, to deny it. But "divorcing" the Makahs from whaling would erode cultural identity and increase tensions "between [the] Makah Tribe and others, including [the] federal government," the study states.

In allowing the Makahs to hunt in the manner they propose, "Makah whale-hunting rituals, spiritual training, songs, dances and ceremonial activities could increase over current conditions, and regularly recur, reinforcing Makah cultural identity," the study states.

Whale hunting is a Makah tradtion carried on for hundreds of years

"The opportunity to regularly harvest, process, share and consume whale products could increase tribal members' sense of community. The whale-hunting ceremonies could provide an additional social framework, which could contribute to community social and spiritual stability."

The Makahs would hunt up to four whales a year for five years.

The study's release comes almost nine years after the Makahs' last whale hunt and three years after their request for a waiver.

Article 4 of the Treaty of Neah Bay, signed in 1855, allows the Makahs "[t]he right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations."

Read more about this proposed whale hunt

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Great Sioux Nation

The Great Sioux Nation is actually made up of 18 separate tribes, or bands in the US, and 12 in Canada. These are divided into three divisions: the Lakota Sioux, Dakota Sioux, and the Nakota Sioux.

Each division speaks a different, but similar, Sioux language dialect.

The individual Sioux Tribes are scattered across several reservations and communities in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and also in Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan in Canada.

The Yankton-Yanktonai, the smallest division, reside on the Yankton reservation in South Dakota and the Northern portion of Standing Rock Reservation, while the Santee live mostly in Minnesota and Nebraska, but include bands in the Sisseton-Wahpeton, Flandreau, and Crow Creek Reservations in South Dakota. The Lakota are the westernmost of the three groups, occupying lands in both North and South Dakota.

The Yankton-Yanktonai are a branch of Sioux peoples who moved into northern Minnesota. They originally constituted of two main ethnic groups: the Yankton ("campers at the end") and Yanktonai ("lesser campers at the end"). Economically, they were involved in quarrying pipestone.

...Read more about the Sioux Indians

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