Native Americans fear the loss of indigenous languages ??in the US

Native Americans fear the loss of indigenous languages ??in the US


As Native Americans this week celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day – the holiday increasingly recognized in the United States in place of “Columbus Day” – members of the continent’s hundreds of tribes shared a common concern: the ongoing extinction of their ancestral languages .

The United States is currently home to 6.8 million Native Americans, or 2 percent of the population.

Members of Long Island’s Shinnecock Nation gathered at sunrise to honor this week’s holiday, which has been adopted by more than a dozen U.S. states and cities amid a growing view that Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was little more than genocide and colonization brought to America in 1492.

And further north on the Atlantic coast, people from America and the Caribbean ate together while they discussed, danced and sang.

But while their ancestors saw their communities decimated by centuries of colonization, descendants today fear their culture and language could be swallowed up in a single generation by English and Spanish.

Anthony Sean Stanton, the 64-year-old leader of the Narragansett tribe, condemned “the invasion of the 21st century” and said his people must “hold on to what we have because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.” “.

Farther west, the Lakota — a prominent Sioux subculture primarily based in North and South Dakota — also fear the extinction of their language, which is currently spoken by 1,500 people, compared to 5,000 speakers two decades ago.

For many communities, including the Lakota, the intergenerational transmission of languages ??ceased in the mid-1980s, said linguist and activist Wilhelm Meya, who serves as president of The Language Conservancy (TLC) in Indiana.

There is “a very small window of opportunity to try to bring the language back before the last speakers of that language die. And this is a story that is being repeated in hundreds of communities in North America,” he said.

“We are at the forefront of trying to prevent this total collapse of indigenous languages ??in North America.”

– hunger for language –

According to TLC, about 2,900 of the approximately 7,000 languages ??spoken worldwide are at risk.

At this rate, the organization says, nearly 90 percent of all languages ??could become extinct in the next 100 years.

According to the nonprofit, Native American languages ??are dying out even faster, with more than 200 already extinct.

The best conservation strategy is to teach these languages ??in schools, says Meya, who notes that the federal government finally allowed communities to adopt this language in the early 1970s.

He is also pushing for the development of other materials in the native languages, including translation of animated series and documentaries, as well as the creation of dictionaries and support for teacher training.

“Anything we can do to reach the young people who are very, very hungry for their language,” Meya said. “They want their culture, they want their identity.”

– ‘Part of what I am’ –

Miya Peters, an 18-year-old member of the Wampanoag tribe on the US northeast coast, is one such example. She learns her language through a partnership between her tribal school and a public school.

“I love it. It’s hard. It’s very different,” she said. “But it’s a part of me. So it always gives me this encouragement to just go ahead and bring it back.”

Meya and his colleague Travis Condon want to continue the work of Kevin Locke, a passionate defender of his Lakota language and culture.

The 68-year-old flautist, hoop dancer and storyteller died unexpectedly on September 30th.

“He was definitely a warrior for his tribe, you know, a messenger for humanity,” Meya said.

The linguist stressed the need for government investment in language preservation.

“It took the federal government 100 years and billions of dollars to eradicate Native American languages ??through the boarding school system,” he said. “And it will take the same amount of resources to bring back the indigenous languages ??in North America.”

“It is much, much more difficult to create than to destroy.”

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