*This is the last of three writings exploring how language defines culture and identity. A multi-generational family trip highlighted the history of institutional attempts to eradicate language. With persistence and practice, words and memories remain.
The New Choctaw Dictionary is bountiful in words and inspiration. Especially, when language has been a difficult venture. Growing up with a speech impediment was a challenging hurdle for accurate pronunciation. It took years of practice to grow the confidence to ignore judgment and move forward.
In high school and undergraduate studies I pursued Spanish, in the last few years Chinese, and now an attempt at the Choctaw language. The process of learning is a beautiful yet manageable mess. Overall, my intent is to research how structures of language are influenced by culture and power.
I imagine an alterative reality where diversity in words is celebrated beyond tweets.
All institutional structures must be questioned, vetted, and reorganized to reflect inclusiveness and equality. The New Choctaw Dictionary is a valuable resource for cultural anthropology and appreciation. From the dedication: “To: Fluent Choctaw speakers of past generations who were keepers and stewards of the language. You maintained our language through written and oral communication, despite obstacles and attempts to eradicate the language…”
Tuchina (three) words:
On November 22nd of 2016, the United Nations proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of indigenous Languages. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) will be leading the effort to preserve and revitalize endangered languages. From UNESCO’s website: “The Resolution also reaffirms the importance of the empowerment and capacity building of indigenous women and youth, including their full and effective participation in decision-making processes in matters that affect them directly, including policies, programmes and resources, in particular in the areas of health, education, employment and the transmission of traditional knowledge, languages and practices.”
This is a beginning to preserve identity one word at time…