Saving endangered Native American languages

There’s a fair bit about this online, but I’ll just highlight the following:

Canada’s National Post newspaper recently did a multimedia series including the Delaware Indian language Munsee, called Lunaape (ie, Lenape)* at the Moraviantown Reserve in southern Ontario.  Behind the scenes of that story is that First Nation’s Bruce Stonefish, profiled in the Newark Star-Ledger a few years agoHe’s behind a weeklong Language Immersion summer camp at Moraviantown (PDF) that at least went on as late as 2007, maybe last summer too, I’m not sure.  Various ‘official’ and other Lenape and other groups got together with Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania a year ago to rap Indigenous Language preservation.  “Unofficial” is that article’s “Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania,” but they seem to be kicking butt in promoting the language at least!  (See here, and this curriculum intended for parents to catch on to and share with children.  I’m not sure if their Lenape language is Munsee or Unami [see “Language Links” below the lessons on that page].)

As you may have seen, Stonefish has taught some lessons to some of my kin, the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape in New Jersey, and visited the State of Delaware, where my Nanticoke ancestors lived after 1742 or so.  But the Nanticoke Indian Association a couple years ago started to resurrect the Nanticoke language with the help of an Anishnabay (or Ojibwe or Chippewa) dialect from Manitoba, since it’s a sister Algonquian language.  Maybe you heard how Hollywood did something similar for a Virginia tribe descended from Jamestown’s neighbors (WaPo link may break).

Why?  In my reading, the folks at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada, say Native Language Immersion is the best if not the only way to treat some of Natives’ social problems both on the Reservation and in larger Settler society, from problems with school grades and academic learning in general, to cultural preservation, to self-destructive behavior, a/k/a internalized oppression/repression/genocide.  Bicultural competence is something many people in Canada know something about.  We’re literally talking about saving lives in many cases.  As Stonefish’s Immersion Camp brochure states: “In order for the Lunaape Language to survive, it needs to once again become an instrumental part of our lives, our everyday conversations and everyday view of the world. Within our language we will find our original Lunaape worldview. It is within our language where we will find the concepts of how we related to all that is around us. It is within our language where the Lunaape people will find keys to understanding our true original identities, gifts and responsibilities to ourselves as well as those around us.”

(*–Both words are correctly pronounced “luh-NAH-pay,” more or less.  The vowel in the first syllable is closest to an American English schwa, that upside down ‘e’ thingie, or more technically, a vowel in an unaccented syllable.)

Dennis Haysbert

Too funny!: Last night I saw a promo for The Unit, and I thought it was an insurance commercial!

Cuomo for Supreme Court?

With Justice David Souter retiring, we could use a real “liberal” in his place.  Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo may be one of the greatest unsung legal and moral-philosophical minds alive in America — and God Himself knows we could use more morality on that High Court these days, nevermind law-abiding!

As if somebody knew something was coming, we have this piece on Cuomo’s visit to the Court last month.  I actually didn’t know Clinton almost nominated him in ’93, maybe because I was otherwise occupied.  But it seems Gov. Cuomo still considers a need for him in other fora:

“You have 100 cases a year at the Court, and five or six of them are really significant, maybe.”  When the Clinton offer came, Cuomo says, the deciding factor in saying no was the prospect of “never being able to speak out again” on issues like the death penalty or poverty.  “Even now, nobody is talking about poor people,” Cuomo laments.  After serving as New York governor for three terms, he said that virtual vow of silence seemed impossible.*  He’s been happy doing other things that help people in recent years, Cuomo says.  “One does what one can.”  He counts his mediation in the asbestos case as one of his endeavors that has benefited those who need help.  Through the mediation, a new $500 million fund was created to compensate thousands more victims of asbestos-related disease who could not have received anything from the depleted Johns-Manville fund.

Talking about giving up the Court to help people puts me in mind of the line about the college professor: “He’s a doctor, but not the kind that helps people”!!  At 76 though, Cuomo is a few years older than Souter, and we may need rather to pull a Clarence Thomas and nominate a 30-something radical prophet who’ll stand up for law and justice and democracy for the next two generations on the Court.  Damned shame.  If it wasn’t for anti-Italian/anti-Catholic bigotry, he would’ve been President as early as ’88 instead of George I … or certainly ’92, when America could’ve done a whole lot better than William Jefferson Clinton.

I just saw a quote of Mario’s I’d never heard before, but which speaks of my own marveling at how decent, respectable, thoughtful moderate Republican politicians of the ’70s and ’80s have become monsters since:

There are few things more amusing in the world of politics than watching moderate Republicans charging to the right in pursuit of greater glory.

God grant you Many Years, Governor — Ad Multos Annos!

(*–Tell Scalia, Governor!!)

Alex Haley’s Red “Roots”

According to this page (text-search him — no matter what Google’s cache says, he’s there!), the author who in his famous book traced African roots and heritage, also claimed Cherokee ancestry.  Cool twice over!  Whatever one may say about the book or the man, God be good to him.