Our Mother Tongues Blog

Alaska OKs Bill Making Native Languages Official

April 24, 2014 - 12:54 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

If you're so inclined, and able, you could soon speak Tlingit, Inupiaq, or Siberian Yupik in Alaska with the knowledge that those and 18 other languages, including English, are officially recognized by the state. Alaska's Legislature approved a bill giving them that status Monday.

Its backers say the largely symbolic bill is a statement about equality. The legislation, House Bill 216, clarifies that it "does not require or place a duty or responsibility on the state or a municipal government to print a document or record or conduct a meeting, assembly, or other government activity in any language other than English."

But the bill does put 20 Alaska Native languages on a par with English, which as NPR member station KTOO reports was made the official language of the state by a 1998 voter initiative.

"That's all we want is equal value," Lance Twitchell, a professor of Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast tells KTOO. "And there's nothing wrong with standing up and saying that. It takes a lot of courage to do that. And it takes a lot of something else to try and go against that."

The bill was endorsed in Alaska's House of Representatives last week, in a 38-0 vote. To ensure its passage before the current legislative session, supporters of the bill organized a 15-hour sit-in at the Capitol that started around noon Sunday. In the early hours of Monday, the Alaska Senate approved it 18-2.

The language bill may be symbolic, but to some of the folks who spoke to KTOO, it means a lot.

Read the whole NPR Article

Yurok Language Featured in NYT

April 14, 2014 - 7:18 AM | by Our Mother Tongues

This weekend the New York Times profiled the successes experienced by the Yurok Language Program in offering instruction to students in four public high schools and two elementary schools in northern California.

"No other Native American language is believed to be taught in as many public schools in California as Yurok, a fact that serves to widen the circle of speakers and perhaps to secure the next generation of teachers," reports NYT writer Norimitsu Onishi. 

Read the full article, "In California, Saving a Language that Predates Spanish and English" online at the New York Times: www.nytimes.com/2014/04/13/us/in-california-saving-a-language-that-predates-spanish-and-english.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=1

"Injunuity" — A Wonderful Short Film

February 11, 2014 - 6:32 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

Injunuity is a wonderful short film from Vision Maker Media and ITVS about preserving American Indian languages. It is a mix of animation, music, and real thoughts from real people exploring our world from the Native American perspective. Enjoy!

Video! ... Audience Responses to "We Still Live Here" Screening in India

November 9, 2013 - 6:54 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

On October 30, We Still Live Here screened at the Tribal India Festival at the Central University of Jharkhand, India. Our thanks to Tolheishel Khaling for organizing the screening and making this wonderful video of many responses and insights on indigenous language revival.


British Columbia: "We Still Live Here" Screens at Two Native American Communities

October 28, 2013 - 7:05 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

We Still Live Here just screened in two Native communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in the tiny towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. This message just in from Marika Swann of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation, who helped organize the panels and screenings:

"The themes in the film brought out some interesting dialogue about the work being done in our area and also what brought our language champions to the work. It is inspiring to see the parallels between our communities and the incredible achievements of our determined mothers."

"We Still Live Here" Screens at UMass Boston on October 23

October 24, 2013 - 7:00 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

Boston, October 23 — We Still Live Here was well-received by an attentive & impressively reflective group of 40 UMASS Boston students this evening, who asked wonderful questions & seemed genuinely moved by the film's message of hope & inspiration for Native language communities. They also wanted to know about Native students' engagement w/ & interest in their heritage languages nationwide. Kutâputush Prof. Den Ouden for using WSLH annually as a teaching tool in her Women's Studies & Anthropology courses!

Speaking Our Mother Tongues at the Language Is Life Conference

September 27, 2013 - 8:18 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

An Exultation of California Indian Languages

September 27, 2013 - 8:14 PM | by Our Mother Tongues

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