The Myaamia Project, started in 2001, is an exemplary model of tribally controlled education supporting Myaamia cultural and language revitalization. The project has developed as a mutually beneficial partnership between Miami University and Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. In-depth research conducted at the university supports a wide range of Miami community language and cultural initiatives, benefiting every Miami tribal member who has an interest in Myaamia language and culture. Meanwhile, undergraduate and graduate students gain a wide range of experiences through direct involvement with the planning, development, delivery and follow-up of research projects. Most, if not all, of the developed materials are freely available to anybody who would like to use them (See the recently developed Earth & Sky Curriculum for an example); and anybody who wishes to contribute is welcome to join the project.
In our discussion this module about stereotypes and critical media anaylsis, I came upon the organization BluePrintForLife which runs the program “Social Work through Hip Hop.” Through the medium of hiphop, this program facilitates social work development and healthy indigenous communities in the Arctic North. Projects are designed with specific communities in mind, but generally deal with issues such as anger, violence, sexual abuse, addictions, positive outlets.
Elders, adults, and youth are encouraged to participate side by side in fun events such as throat-boxing (Inuit throat boxing combined with beatboxing) as well as complex discussions of anger, violence, sexual abuse and addictions.This program addresses the multigenerational healing of communities – take the Elder DJ component for example; a way in which Elders can model positive risk taking along with opening dialogue through sharing a laugh.
While there have no doubt been many instances of pejorative depictions of Aboriginal peoples on television and in film, there are increasingly common examples of inclusive and supportive depictions as well. Take TigaTalk, for example. Launched in 2008 on APTN, TigaTalk is a children’s television show (preschool level) that uses puppets, cartoon, and live-action stories to explore First Nations culture. This show is also attempting to address preschooler’s mastery of linguistic skills (in Aboriginal languages as well as English. TigaTalk also has an iOS App developed with licensed speech and language pathologists, providing a fun way for children to develop speech sounds through playful voice-controlled games that can improve speech clarity, articulation, and instill confidence.
Library and Archives Canada has a searchable database of historical government and private works, both published and non-published, for you to explore. Looking at the “archives” section will bring up photos and and documents often viewable online. The institution was brought together through federal legislation in 2004, tying together the National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada. They are mandated to provide a wealth of information and memory accessible to all Canadians. As one would expect, their collection is broad and could be of interest to many avenues of research. They do have a specific section on Aboriginal Peoples including databases, research aids, and virtual exhibitions.
Although it was created over five years ago (that’s a lot of Internet time!) I found navigating around “Tshinanu / All of Us” to be an interesting “sandbox” exercise. With no instructions on how to use the website, it’s background or meaning; I began exploring the 26 modules at random and found a surprisingly engaging and user-friendly experience.
Digging deeper, I discovered the website is based on a television series developed to depict the “social, economic and cultural realities of Quebec Aboriginal communities.” The project brings together community members of all ages and many viewpoints to discuss meaningful issues, covering a range of topics from the politics to cooking to gender issues to coming of age. Each interactive module allows the watch an overview, meet people involved with the “theme,” participate in an interactive activity, share an opinion on the topic discover related resources, and more.
The design concept behind this website was based “on principles of interactivity, discovery and exchange well suited to First Nations philosophy.” Having stumbled upon the website at random, I have never seen the TV series that the clips/themes are taken from, nor was I expecting such a surprisingly pleasurable web-browsing experience!
My first weblog posting of Module 1 was a TedTalk and I will continue in a similar fashion for Module 2 in our discussions of indigeneity and stereotyping.
“Remote lands of indigenous peoples are not remote at all. They are homelands of somebody.” In his discussion on Endangered Cultures, Wade Davis covers a lot of ground – from language to landscapes, traditional knowledge holders and indigenous peoples who face unknown modernity. He talks Voodoo, not a black magic cult (that’s a stereotype,) but complex metaphysical worldview. He talks of rites of priesthood of the Kogi, which include a strict 18-year inculturation into the values of their society. He discusses the level of indigenous intuition and relation to landscapes in comparison with the emotional disconnect evident in a contemporary resource-based economy. He talks of Indigenous people that say plants “talk” to them and the impossibility of dissect their explanation of plant taxonomy from a scholarly standpoint.
Davis notes that even those who are aware of the endangered nature of many indigenous cultures still view these cultures as quaint and colorful, however reduced from the live-a-day world of western society. He argues that it is not technology or the change technology brings that threatens indigenous societies, it is an overpowering domination to mimic Westernized notions of how technology should be used, and how change should proceed, that is the root of the threat.
The recently-launched UBC Vancouver Aboriginal Portal is a way to connect students, scholars, and the public with issues relating to higher education, Aboriginality and inquiry at UBC. I believe the Portal is coordinated by the UBC’s First Nations House of Learning. With a heavy focus on video, the Portal respects the tradition of orality and the “Feature Stories” provide relevant information through digital storytelling. The Portal contains information for for current and prospective Aboriginal students of UBC, links to the myriad of programs at UBC relating specifically to Aboriginal issues, an overview research and initiatives across the university relating to Aboriginal issues, and an overview of the university’s First Nation’s community and youth programs.
You can also follow UBC’s First Nations Longhouse on Facebook 🙂
Indigenous tribes in Canada have a long history of oral tradition and most often did not have a traditional written language. Considering our discussions this week about the goals of Aboriginal Education versus the euro-centric mainstream and the struggles of Aboriginal children to relate to westernized instruction methods, perhaps it is no surprise that Aboriginal literacy rates in Canada are often lower than non-Aboriginal literacy rates. Compounding struggles for literacy is the fact that neither provincial nor federal library funding extends to Aboriginal reserve lands. Realizing the importance of literacy, First Nations in BC have begun to found private libraries on Reserve land. The first on-reserve library in British Columbia was opened in 2007 on Haida Gwaii, and more recently the Thistalalh Memorial Library opened it’s doors to the coastal community of Bella Bella. As a place for stories, oral traditions, games, family time and more, Libraries may become a more common feature of Reserve communities.
Located on the Adams Lake Band reseve in the Sepwepemc Nation, BC, Chief Atahm School is a parent-run language immersion school and educational program. The program began in 1987 as a language nest modeled in the Maori style of “Te Kohanga Reo” by a group of parents hoping to stem the loss of the Sepwepemc language. Since that time, their program has grown into an internationally celebrated example of successful tribally controlled education. Their Vision Statement reflects a deep respect for the values and traditions of the Sepwepemc.
The school provides full immersion from nursery through grade three, partial immersion for grades four through nine, and adult language courses. As the success of their program has become evident through the students that progress through the school and the revitalization of the Sepwepemc language, they also provide yearly Teacher Training institutes and adaptable curriculum development tools. Building on a tradition of continuing refinement of their programming, Chief Atahm School holds an annual language conference that is well attended by language activists, teachers, and enthusiasts.
Dustin Rivers is a young language revitalization activist of the Squamish Nation. He does not profess to be a language expert or even fluent in the language he is helping to teach, but he saw a chance to promote the revival of his language through engaging his community (noting that “Social Media is just the beginning!”). Launched on November 17, 2010, Dustin’s website SquamishLanguage.com has served to promote language classes in the Squamish Valley, discuss the basic tenets and importance of language immersion around the home, promote two podcasts (one relating to language lessons and one relating to cultural icons, knowledge keepers, and leaders), study scripts for “word-of-the-day” posts, invite community members to play traditional games and language-fluency games, and more.
It is also notable that this initiative is not (yet?) officially sanctioned by the Squamish Nation, nor does it have any financial sponsorship. This website serves as an example of how one Aboriginal youth is successfully initiating a grass-roots revival of his heritage language, using social media as a distribution platform. The Na Tkwi Sníchim podcast is especially relevant for language enthusiasts looking for a model to base their own language initiatives around.
The celebration of this successful language initiative to date is heartening and worth keeping track of.