September 4, 2009

We had a wonderful conference in Fort Wayne last weekend about “Community-Based Language Revival.” So many of the languages that were once spoken on the land we now call America are no longer spoken by very many people. The speakers at the conference acknowledged the deep sadness of this, while challenging the notion that the death of such languages is inevitable.

We had speakers from Canada, Ohio, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Indiana.

A few notes:

Daryl Baldwin told us about the Myaamia Project at Miami University, and about “family immersion” as a way of bringing back a language that has been called extinct. He and his family speak Miami in their home, and his children have grown up knowing how to converse in Miami.

“Language” is not a noun in all languages.

“I want to demonstrate a strength of purpose when I use this language I was given.”

Donald Perrot, one of 6 fluent speakers of Potawatomi, out of 34,000 tribal members–he spoke the language exclusively until he was 6 years old; he’s 70 now.

Other speakers: Chad Thompson, Gretta Yoder Owen, Scott Shoemaker, and Paul Stone. (I wish I’d taken more and better notes, as I don’t want to mis-quote anyone, so I’m not being specific about what each speaker said. (I also spoke about the use of English and Dinak’i in Telida, Alaska, 1981-1884.)