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Posts Tagged ‘native american’


Photo: Library of Congress/Wikimedia
Frances Densmore at the Smithsonian Institution in 1916 during a recording session with the Blackfoot tribal leader called Mountain Chief for the Bureau of American Ethnology.

I can understand that one might be able to resurrect a mastodon that was frozen in ice, but how do you resurrect an extinct language? Turns out the answer is lasers and wax recordings. (Takes me back to my father’s clunky wire recorder and what I had to say in my 6-year-old voice on the static-filled recording we call “The Birth of Willie.”)

Allison Meier writes at Hypoallergic, “Among the thousands of wax cylinders in the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology are songs and spoken-word recordings in 78 indigenous languages of California. Some of these languages, recorded between 1900 and 1938, no longer have living speakers. The history on the cylinders is difficult to hear. The objects have deteriorated over the decades, mold eating away at their forms, cracks breaking through the sound.

“A project underway at UC Berkeley is using innovative optical scan technology to transfer and digitally restore these recordings. … The initiative aims to preserve about 100 hours of audio. he collaborative restoration project involves linguist Andrew Garrett, digital librarian Erik Mitchell, and anthropologist Ira Jacknis, all at UC Berkeley, and utilizes a non-invasive scanning technique developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicists Carl Haber and Earl Cornell. …

“Anthropologist Alfred Kroeber began his field audio collecting in 1901, a month after becoming the curator of the then-new museum. Although the recordings are limited, each only a few minutes long, and were captured at a subjective start and stop by Kroeber, they are invaluable for understanding the diverse languages of indigenous life in California.”

According to Hypoallergic, the project website warns that “due to ‘the culturally sensitive material of the content on these cylinders, and out of respect for the contemporary descendants of many of the performers on the recordings, access to the majority of the audio being digitized is currently restricted.’ One of the publicly available recordings is that of Ishi, recognized as the last surviving member of his Yahi tribe, who lived out his final years at Hearst Museum. His voice, among many being recovered from the noise of the wax cylinders, leads the recently-shared video from [National Science Foundation] below.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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With no wish to detract from the joy that Italians take from their countryman’s spirit of adventure or the pride that Americans feel for positive developments that followed the First Encounter, it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t the best thing for the people already living here. So without beating a drum that isn’t mine to beat, I’ll just share a gentle poem by a major Native American poet, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It’s a poem that is good for all people.

Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

More at the Poetry Foundation.

Update June 21, 2019: Joy Harjo became the first Native American US Poet Laureate in 2019. Click here.

Photo: Wikipedia
Joy Harjo in 2012.

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Photo: Star Tribune
Ojibwe poet Jim Northrup

I have been trying to learn something about tribal cultures in the United States. I liked Spokane/Coeur d’Alene tribal member Sherman Alexie’s Thunder Boy (a charming picture book for young children) and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (an early, painful collection of short stories). Now I am reading some Native American poetry.

One poet, Jim Northrup, recently died. Here is a beautiful obit by Jana Hollingsworth in the Duluth News Tribune.

“Jim Northrup was a ‘tough man’ who taught his eldest sons to survive in the elements by living in a tepee on the Fond du Lac Reservation for several years, when money and jobs were scarce.

“But it was more than physical survival, said his son, Matthew, on Tuesday, the day after his father died from cancer-related complications. He taught them how to be strong in a world that didn’t treat everyone the same, he said, using humor — and education — as tools.

” ‘ “When you have really nothing else,” he said to me a lot, “you have your humor,” Matthew said. ” ‘When you grow up poor on the rez and when you grow up a lower class in society, you realize that.’

“Northrup, an award-winning writer of books, columns, plays and poetry — and a prominent member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa — died [in July]. He was 73.

“Northrup was a storyteller, known for his stark and honest writing about his experience as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and his early years at a federal boarding school. He was funny and pointed in his writings about everyday life on the reservation, politics and change in Indian Country. He wrote as a way to heal himself from some of the trauma he experienced during the war, he said earlier this year.

” ‘I knew my poetry was being used in vets’ groups to help people open up (and) maybe even write their own poetry as part of their healing,’ he told the News Tribune in March. ‘It worked for me, so I hoped it helped (others).’ ”

More here, where you can hear Northrup read a poem in Ojibwe about passing along the culture. Read the whole obit. It’s really lovely. I hated to cut it.

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A Native American chef trained in French cuisine has a mission to teach the world about an older, unrecognized culinary tradition that has influenced most of us. Hanna Choi reported the story for National Public Radio.

“When Nephi Craig enrolled in the culinary program at Arizona’s Scottsdale Community College, there was nothing like ‘Native American Cuisine 101’ in the curriculum. Craig identifies as White Mountain Apache and Navajo, and the first mention he can recall of anything remotely related to his background was a class discussion on fry bread, a crispy fried concoction that ‘is really a taste of American colonialism,’ he says …

“Since then, he increasingly came to sense a sort of dismissiveness and sloppiness towards Native Americans and indigenous food ways in the mainstream culinary world.

“Craig grew up immersed in his culture through art, music and ceremony, and food always played a large role. He wanted to find a way to bridge the gap. …

“Upon graduating from culinary school in 2000, Craig launched the Native American Culinary Association. Based in Arizona, NACA is a network of Native chefs — professionals and those just starting out — dedicated to the research, refinement, and development of Native American cuisine. Since 2011, the association has organized a yearly Indigenous Food Symposium, bringing people from different fields together to share and learn about Native foods, agriculture and landscapes.

‘Craig is also the executive chef of The Summit Restaurant at Sunrise Park Resort in Whiteriver, Arizona. … Craig’s culinary team there is staffed entirely by cooks and other food workers who identify either with the White Mountain Apache tribe or as Navajo/Dineh.”

In the NPR interview, Craig tells Choi, “I had always been cooking since I was a kid, growing up here on the rez with my mom and my family. We didn’t have a lot of money and so we would bake and sell our goods and I would bag up stuff in sandwich bags and sell them as a little guy.

“I’ve been cooking my entire life, all through my adolescence and I had ultimately wanted to do something creative. …

“I had no idea the world that I would be entering in the long classical legacy that is French cuisine. But that’s kind of where I started out, just in childhood, and then realizing just by pure observation that we were left out of this picture of world cuisine even when about 70 percent of foods consumed around the world today were developed and domesticated by Indigenous peoples of the Americas.”

Craig explains more here. Check it out.

Photo: Evan Sung/Nephi Craig
Nephi Craig, executive chef of The Summit Restaurant at Sunrise Park Resort in Whiteriver, Arizona.

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I’ve been telling Suzanne and John about a free children’s hour on Thursdays at the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island. I thought it sounded like fun for the kids.

According to the website, the program teaches “the history and culture of the Narragansett Tribal Nation through music, dance and storytelling. … Children’s Hour targets pre-school and homeschoolers during the school year and the families during school vacation. …

“Each week will have a different theme or focus. It will include music, dance, storytelling, engagement with exhibits and art or science activities. Each activity will be scaled to fit the ages and abilities of the youth. We will encourage peer mentoring between older and younger participants.

A typical Children’s Hour consists of: Traditional Greeting & Narragansett Welcome Dance (weather permitting); Narragansett Lesson/cultural concept (in our museum); Scavenger Hunt connected to theme where kids can explore exhibits; Social Dance to our Pavilion building; Storytelling/book share; craft or game depending on the content; Closing circle

The museum just won a national award for museum and library services. Executive Director Lorén Spears and Narragansett tribal leaders went to Washington last week, where Michelle Obama presented the award.

More here.

Photo: Tomaquag Museum Executive Director Lorén Spears

 

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In September, Emily Fox did a feature at Michigan Radio on efforts to preserve a dying Native American language. The initiative is focused on preschoolers.

“Anishinaabemowin is the language that was spoken by tribes in Michigan for millennia,” Fox says, “and it’s near extinction in the state.  Many Michigan tribes don’t have any fluent speakers left, while those that do are only reporting between one to three fluent speaking elders.

“Michigan tribes are doing what they can to bring the language back. Some are doing language immersion weekends. Some are creating programs to learn Anishinaabemowin online.

“A lot of tribes are teaching community language classes, or bringing it to the public schools and day care centers.

“The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mt. Pleasant only has one fluent Anishinaabemowin speaker, but they have been able to pool enough resources together to have a four-day-a-week early childhood language immersion school since 2009.

“Isabelle Osawamick, with the Language Department for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, says the teachers at the Sasiwaans Immersion School only speak in Anishinaabemowin. The language is used in class lessons and in every daily activity. …

“She says with immersion, the kids start to understand Annishinabemowin quickly.

“ ‘I’ve seen them listen and in a matter of two months they comprehend 100%,’ Osawamick says.”

Click here to read the details and to listen to the recorded broadcast.

Photo: Emily Fox / Michigan Radio
Two-year-olds at the Sasiwaans language immersion school in Mt. Pleasant get a lesson in the Native American tradition of smudging.

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Ken Shulman reports at WBUR’s Only a Game that skateboarding often means a lot to kids on reservations.

The story starts with an Apache artist, Doug Miles.

“Miles paints mainly on found objects: fuel cans, car hoods, panels from a trailer home. But there’s one outlier among the surfaces, a curious artifact that migrated from California to America’s inner cities to the suburbs and, finally, to the reservation: the skateboard. …

“Miles said. ‘My son needed a skateboard. I didn’t have enough money. So I painted him one. And then he rode it all around the rez. And I knew what was going to happen. I knew. So when he got home I said, “What did everybody say?” And he said, “Dad, Dad, everybody wants one.” ‘

“Today Miles’ skateboards hang in private collections and museums. Some of them sell for hundreds of dollars. But the former social worker is most proud of APACHE Skateboards — a skateboard team, shop and artist collaborative he founded on the San Carlos Reservation, about 90 miles east of Phoenix.

“Miles said that making skateboards helps his kids connect with their Apache heritage.

“We’ve been making things for centuries as native people,” he explained. …

“The San Carlos team has a thriving skate park — with colorful murals painted by Miles and his crew. The team also travels to compete against other tribes and against big city skaters. Miles said the travel is mind opening.

“ ‘The kids in the South Bronx and the other reservations and East LA, they’re just like our kids,’ he said. ‘These are all communities that are struggling. So when they meet our kids they’re really meeting themselves. And so I think it empowers kids to know that we’re struggling here, too, but we’re also making art and skateboarding and having a lot of fun in the process.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ken Shulman/Only A Game
For some Native Americans living on Indian reservations in the American Southwest, skateboarding is more than just a recreational activity.

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