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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
  
  
  
 
First Nations news by Lounge Trekker on 25 October 2012 1:01am
 
Instead of using Wheelies music thread, I'll put First Nations posts here.

First Nations are given opportunity that we European desscendents are not; but culturally, not all are genetically set up to take advantage. Successful First Nations individuals, Chiefs, may or may not equitably share some of this opportunity fairly with their band. It is only the few of these native leaders we hear and see in our news reports, and it never makes the average white guy feel good.

It will take another several generations before First Nations can really feel like they are a part of Canada. It will take the same several generations for the non-First Nations people to allow them to feel part of Canada.

 
Re: First Nations news by Lounge Trekker on 25 October 2012 1:06am
 
I am no expert, but the First Nations peoples in what is now Canada, prior to European settlement, were diverse in their method of survival. There were the plains Indians who were essentially nomadic hunters, there were coastal Indians in what is now BC on the Pacific coast. (of course, borders didn't exist yet) Then there were the east coast Indians who were more advanced in the gathering, even farming-type lives.

There are many indian tribes http://www.native-languages.org/languages.htm#alpha, or First Nations Peoples, and much of their descriptions in the anthropological sense, depended on their geographical locations. Coastal bands had fish to survive on, then hunting to augment their diets. Interior indians could fish rivers during salmon spawning runs, but the climate and their esssentially nomadic life forced them to live differently than the 'longhouse central to a village' style of, e.g. the Salish and Haida.

What I'm trying to say is that you could spend a lifetime learning about the different native bands and die essentially unknowledgable of most of it, because very little has been published on the topic. The lack of written language and history glare under the light of scientific research.

Our present-day civilization is fond of grouping vastly differing indian bands into umbrella definitions. This just isn't so, given the immense geography and consequent climate variance. These people were at the previous stage of civilizational development, yet within two generations are forced to conform to the contemporary stage of development...modern-day western civilization as we know it. From nomadic hunting and gathering to the internet in fewer than six generations.

Some rode horses, but most didn't, so a small distance of a few hundred kilometres meant the evolution of a different language. And these people kept no written record of their history: they hadn't evolved to the stage of developing a written language yet.

Had Europeans waited a few thousand years before making landfall on this continent, the North American Indian culture may still be alive and well.

When I was in high school, an ambitious teacher brought us on an archaeological field trip where we excavated a 'kigwilli' - pronouned KIH-glee- hole. These were dwellings built and occupied by Chilcotin Indians as recently as 200 years ago. They consisted of a 4 - 7 m diameter hole less than 60 cm deep with, it is believed, three or more poles intersecting near the center to hold a turf or tree branch roof up...maybe even a log 'dome'. There was a hole in the middle for entry/egress and to allow smoke from their fire to escape.

We found a 5 -6 cm of ash from the fire beneath 25 - 35 cm of humous or dirt. The fire was located, predictably, near the centre. We only had a weekend, so we went through the motions of a real archaeological site in quite a hurry; dug two trenches across the kigwilli hole, recording anomalies on a diagram. Had we time and funding we could have dug others nearby and tried to piece together something of their community history.

Today, these kigwilli holes are just that - a circular depression with indiginous vegetation growing throughout, some with small trees.

This past summer, I was at a 'pow-wow' in Stand Off, Alberta. There must have been 10 000 Blood indians there. It was a mass of people, with traditional events along with the expected carnival of rides and trickery. I was only there to do my business. The volume of uninvolved people made this impossible and, unfortunately, I didn't have time to linger.

This band, within the Blood tribe http://www.bloodtribe.org/, originally, lived in hide shelters, like a tee-pee and were nomadic, following the buffalo as they migrated.

Let me know if you want to hear more. Better still, maybe someone out there is an expert on the topic and we can hear some current theories. I hope that, through the trumpeting of my ignorance, I haven't misled anyone.

I looked online and found this: http://www.okib.ca/senklip/2011/2011JUNE.pdf , scroll down to In Our Community 2011 and you can read about someone involved with the Okanagan Band talk about their version of 'Kickwilly Hut'.
 
Re: First Nations news by Lounge Trekker on 25 October 2012 1:10am
 
Anyway. I wanted to e-mail you, John, with the contents of that last post. I can't really add more, but you've piqued my curiosity and if I find any other sources (links) I'll get them to you. If you look at the few in my post, hopefully they are not censored, and follow their links you might be able to assemble a sketchy picture of what the original peoples were like.

Unfortunately, with no written record of this people's history, the recent generations really only have the present to work with. Comfort, TV, cars, fast food add significant inertia to the small attemts being made to preserve these cultures.

The most potentially interesting and fruitful way would be to talk to elders about what they heard from their elders. This may involve the need of a translator of a very obscure language. This might be your way to get local help - appeal to the people you talk to with the benefit of global awareness of their issues.

Their survival as individuals is guaranteed by federal law, but the survival of their languages and cultures is in dire danger of extinction. It really is incredible to see the extinction of a historically significant culture happening around us.

 
Re: First Nations news by Lounge Trekker on 25 October 2012 1:23am
 
John, in case you are interested in the native language extinction issue in North America, the Globe and Mail has a few articles of interest in todays online submission:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/aboriginal-languages-in-deep-trouble-but-some-rescue-efforts-paying-off/article4633828/

In case we are again victims of Canadian censorship, I'll quote a few paragraphs. If you are unable to access this page http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/ , please let me know and I'll make some noise about it here in Canada.

'The Cree languages, Ojibway and Inuktitut were the three most common of the 60 aboriginal languages reported in the 2011 census, representing nearly two-thirds of the 213,490 people who claimed one as their mother tongue, the agency (Canadian Statistics) reported Wednesday.'

'People with the Cree languages as their mother tongue lived mainly in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec, while those with Ojibway or Oji-Cree mother tongues were mainly in Ontario or Manitoba.'

'Mohawk is among many aboriginal tongues in Canada that are hanging by a thread – in large part victims of the sordid legacy of Canada’s residential school system. Many will likely die with the few remaining elders who speak them.'

'According to the 2011 census, the Cree languages are showing relative strength, with some 83,475 people claiming them as their mother tongue. Inuktitut was reported by some 34,110 people, while 19,275 people reported Ojibway and 11,860 reported Dene.

For many others, fluent speakers are measured in the hundreds, dozens, or even single digits. Mohawk, an Iroquois tongue long associated with one of the most iconic representations of First Nations identity, registered a paltry 545 people, all of them in Ontario and Quebec.'

'The situation is bleakest, however, in British Columbia, which is home to more than half of Canada’s native languages. All are in danger of disappearing, with only about one in 20 aboriginals in the province still fluent – almost all of them elders.'-Globe and Mail

If the language dies with the elders, unless these elders have done a memory dump to an English-Ab translator, the history of the culture dies too.
 
Re: First Nations news by Lounge Trekker on 25 October 2012 1:41am
 
I'm using up my life dealing with this half-baked software...another double post.
 
Re: First Nations news by Lounge Trekker on 25 October 2012 1:43am
 
The following is from the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper,

Aboriginal languages in deep trouble, but some rescue efforts paying off

by Colin Perkel

Tyendinaga First Nation, Ontario
published Wednesday Oct. 24 9:15 am eastern
updated Wednesday Oct. 24 12:41 pm
eastern

In a way, the chattering half-dozen First Nations youngsters are learning their mother tongue for the first time – and the future of the once-mighty Mohawk language is hanging in the balance.

The students are a critical component of a language-revitalization program at the Tsi Tyonnheht Onkawenna Language and Cultural Centre in Tyendinaga First Nation that hopes to breathe new life into the community’s original identity, one small voice at a time.

“We are quite a success story: we’ve built enough capacity in our programs that we are able to teach our own now,” says Callie Hill, the cultural centre’s director.

“We were at a point where we had to call in teachers from other Mohawk communities because we didn’t have anyone who could speak our language.”

The program in this community east of Belleville, Ont., is a point of light in a national landscape once vibrant with the sound of more than 70 distinct First Nations languages.

Now, of the more than 60 across the country that were registered in the 2011 census, only a relative handful – such as Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Dene – remain strong and viable, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada suggest.

The Cree languages, Ojibway and Inuktitut were the three most common of the 60 aboriginal languages reported in the 2011 census, representing nearly two-thirds of the 213,490 people who claimed one as their mother tongue, the agency reported Wednesday.

That’s down by about 3,620 people, or 1.7 per cent, since 2006, Statistics Canada said.

People with the Cree languages as their mother tongue lived mainly in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec, while those with Ojibway or Oji-Cree mother tongues were mainly in Ontario or Manitoba.

Mohawk is among many aboriginal tongues in Canada that are hanging by a thread – in large part victims of the sordid legacy of Canada’s residential school system. Many will likely die with the few remaining elders who speak them.

Edward Doolittle, head of interdepartmental programs at First Nations University of Canada in Regina, calls it an enormous loss.

“We don’t even know what we’re losing,” Mr. Doolittle says. “Once we’ve lost language, we’ve lost a mainstay of culture. All the knowledge that has gone into our languages and our cultures may be needed again sometime – and may be needed sometime soon.”

According to the 2011 census, the Cree languages are showing relative strength, with some 83,475 people claiming them as their mother tongue. Inuktitut was reported by some 34,110 people, while 19,275 people reported Ojibway and 11,860 reported Dene.

For many others, fluent speakers are measured in the hundreds, dozens, or even single digits. Mohawk, an Iroquois tongue long associated with one of the most iconic representations of First Nations identity, registered a paltry 545 people, all of them in Ontario and Quebec.

The situation is bleakest, however, in British Columbia, which is home to more than half of Canada’s native languages. All are in danger of disappearing, with only about one in 20 aboriginals in the province still fluent – almost all of them elders.

“Many of the small languages are really extremely endangered,” says Olga Lovick, an associate linguistics professor at First Nations University.

“Once it stops being spoken a lot in the community, there’s so little really one can do.”

The last 20 years, however, have seen a push to arrest the demise and even turn it around, such as in Tyendinaga.

Numerous websites now offer basic lessons along with words and pronunciations. Universities offer degree courses. There are community programs.

In some cases, a younger person “apprentices” with a fluent elder in a last-ditch effort to keep the language alive.

Sometimes, older people finally give in to a long-held wish.

“I always wanted to learn my language,” says Margaret Claus, 76, as she struggles with Mohawk at the adult program in Tyendinaga. “It’s part of my heritage.”

Keren Rice, professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto, calls the efforts heartening.

“People are understanding that if something isn’t done now, it’s not going to be possible to do it,” Ms. Rice says.

While about one-quarter of First Nations people report having an aboriginal mother tongue, a higher proportion report being able to speak a native language, as was the case in 2006.

The figures suggest second-language programs such as those in Tyendinaga are having an impact.

For linguists, the gold standard is whether language is passed on from one generation to the next in the home, something that’s not happening in many First Nations families.

Experts cite several reasons for why many aboriginals seem reluctant to learn and teach their own tongue. One is the lack of economic payback, although some program graduates go on to earn money as teachers.

Another problem, experts say, is the internalization of centuries of racist attitudes – that indigenous language and culture is inferior.

“They somehow want to free themselves of their language so they can become more authentically Canadian,” says Darin Flynn, assistant professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Calgary.

Experts say offering First Nations languages in schools and the small but growing number of university courses provide formal recognition of their value.

First Nations University – which has one of the most extensive such programs in Canada – offers major degrees in Cree and Saulteaux, and minors in Dene, Nakota and Dakota.

The school is also pushing faculty and administrators to gain facility in Cree.

Still, experts worry the various programs won’t be enough to win the daunting battle to preserve or enhance fluency, given the pervasive absence of the indigenous languages in First Nation homes, media and governments.

Among Canadian jurisdictions, only the Northwest Territories officially recognizes aboriginal languages – Chipewyan, Cree, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey, Tlicho – in addition to English and French.

But even in the Northwest Territories, more people name the Philippines-based language of Tagalog – the fastest growing non-official language in Canada, according to the 2011 data – as their mother tongue than list three or four of the official native languages.

“You can’t really force a community to keep the language going if there’s no will for it,” Mr. Flynn says.

Back in Tyendinaga, Ms. Hill agrees there are those who see little point in learning their indigenous tongue.

At the same time, she says, a few parents are trying to raise their children in Mohawk, and Mohawk is now spoken by about 50 people in the community of 2,200.

For the first time in ages, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga can do their own longhouse ceremonies without outside speakers.

“Everything that we are is in our language,” Ms. Hill said. “It is the base of who we are.”

 



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