Opinion: Don't take Native languages for granted
"All over the world, through the ravages of time, we are losing our elders, losing touch with our oral history, and slowly drifting away from the anchors of civilized culture. For many native people, those whose numbers are rapidly dwindling, this is a living death.

A Lakota friend of mine is engaged in an oral history project, which may well take her years to complete. She is chronicling the life experiences and oral traditions of several Lakota female elders on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

In Native cultures around the world, the elders are dying, and taking their native languages to the grave with them. People whose numbers once ranged into the millions are now down to a handful of native speakers, and, when those speakers die, so does the language of their respective cultures, along with the collected oral history of those who came before.

Native American language and culture have been under assault for generations, particularly by federal policies in both the United States and Canada. From the mid-Nineteenth century until as late as 1975, hundreds of thousands of Native children were forced to attend distant 'residential schools' from the age or 4 or 5 to 16. And, in those ensuing years, they were forbidden to use their native tongue, forbidden to come home, forcibly separated from the culture, which birthed them.

Lawsuits have been filed over the alleged abuse, rape and murder, which reportedly took place in those schools, but, for those who survived, the separation from family, adults and culture took a hard toll."

Get the Story:
Monica Davis: Don't Take Language for Granted (Kansas City Infozine 1/19)

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