SSILA: studying the indigenous languages of the Americas

January 24, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Alaska, Language, Organization | Leave a comment

A arrived to this site via Talking Alaska. They were announcing the SSILA 2009 Annual Meeting, with the following topics:

  • Acoustic correlates of stress in the Inland dialect of Dena’ina Athabascan (Siri Tuttle, University of Alaska, Fairbanks)
  • The phonetics of tone in two dialects of Dane-zaa (Julia Colleen Miller, University of Washington)
  • A H+L% boundary tone in Athabaskan (Sharon Hargus, University of Washington)
  • Landscape and landscape at the intersection of Athabascan and Eskimo (Gary Holton, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
  • The morphosyntax of Navajo comparatives and the degree argument (Elizabeth Bogal­Allbritten, Swarthmore)
  • Aspiration as phonation: An acoustic analysis of aspirated affricates in the Dene languages (Joyce McDonough, University of Rochester; Jordan Lachler, Sealaska Heritage Institute; Sally Rice, University of Alberta)
  • Coordination in Pribil of Islands Aleut (Anna Berge, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
  • A contrastive feature account of Inuit ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ /i/ (Richard Compton and B. Elan Dresher, University of Toronto
  • Navajo degree constructions and the decompositional analysis of gradable predicates (Elizabeth Bogal­Allbritten, Swarthmore)

After reading that, I keep looking for more information:

The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA)

The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) was founded in December 1981 as the international scholarly organization representing American Indian linguistics, and was incorporated in 1997. Membership in SSILA is open to all those who are interested in the scientific study of the languages of the native peoples of North, Central and South America. The Society has approximately 900 members, more than a third of them residing outside the United States.

All members receive the SSILA Newsletter, a quarterly publication that contains news, announcements, notices of recent publications, current journal contents, a listing of recent dissertations, and several other regular features. (The Newsletter is sent at the airmail rate to all members residing outside the United States, at no additional charge.) If you would like to purchase previous volumes of the SSILA Newsletter, most are still avaliable for US $3.50 per issue. A “SSILA Bulletin” with late-breaking news, job openings, etc.,is also e-mailed to all members (and to others on request) every two to fourweeks. The “SSILA Bulletin” is archived on this website in pdf format.

Other activities and benefits of the Society include:

  • SSILA holds an annual winter meeting, featuring several topical sessions on various aspects of American Indian linguistics, usually meeting jointly with the Linguistic Society of America. We will next meet in Chicago, Illinois in January, 2008.
  • The Mary R. Haas Book Award is presented annually to an unpublished monograph that the Society judges to be a significant contribution to our knowledge of American indigenous languages. Manuscripts receiving the Haas Award are eligible for publication under the Society’s sponsorship.
  • A Membership Directory is published yearly in February, and includes an index of the language specializations of the Society’s members, as well as postal and e-mail addresses. The Directory is available to members for US $3.50 (or $5.00 Canadian) in addition to basic dues. A searchable web version of the Membership Directory, with postal and e-mail addresses, is kept current. The membership directory is available only to members.
  • Mouton de Gruyter regularly offers substantial discounts to SSILA members on its publications in American Indian linguistics and allied topics.
  • The SSILA Bulletin with late-breaking news, job openings, etc., is posted regularly (at least once a month, and sometimes more frequently) on the Internet. Back issues are archived at the SSILA website.

Do not miss the bulletin, the newsletter and the links pages! And if you find it interesting enough, you may decide to apply as a member here.

Alaska Native Collections

September 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Alaska, Education, Maps, Naming, Siberia | 4 Comments
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Today I want to share a very good general resource I found las week: the Alaska Native Collections site, by the Smithsonian institute. Despite its name, the site includes information about Alaska but also about Russia or other polar contruies. The site is not only beautifully designed but also packed with a lot of maps, photographies and information, allowing the visitor to learn about the arctic cultures easily. If you just want to learn a few basics, you can do a quick reading, if you want to deep more, you just need to open the “Read more” sections.

Through the Sharing Knowledge project, members of Indigenous communities from across Alaska and northeast Siberia are working with the Smithsonian Institution and the Anchorage Museum to interpret the materials, techniques, cultural meanings, history, and artistry represented by objects in the western arctic and subarctic collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. The Arctic Studies Center, which organized and implemented the project, is a special research program within the Department of Anthropology, NMNH, with offices in Washington and at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska.

The goals of Sharing Knowledge are to make the Smithsonian collections accessible to all and to support cross-cultural learning among Indigenous home communities, in schools, and around the world. Interest in the extraordinary arts and cultural heritage of the North is truly global in scope. Participants in this project are Elders, scholars, artists, and teachers who invite all to explore, learn, and appreciate.

The combined holdings of NMNH and NMAI are vast—more than 30,000 items from Alaska and northeast Siberia, most collected between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century. The great majority has never been published, exhibited, or seen by contemporary residents of source communities in the North. Collaborative study of these collections for Sharing Knowledge began in 2001-2005, with a series of trips to the museums in Washington by more than forty Elders and regional representatives. This documentation process will continue as many more objects are brought from Washington to new Smithsonian exhibition galleries and Arctic Studies Center facilities at the Anchorage Museum, starting in 2010. Through its alliance with the Arctic Studies Center (since 1993) and its planned physical expansion to house these programs and collections, the Anchorage Museum has become an important Smithsonian partner in fostering the collaborative work of museums and Native communities.

Object records on this site include edited transcripts of museum discussions as well as summaries drawn from history, anthropology, and recorded oral tradition. The Cultures section includes regional introductions and information about contributors. The Resources section offers reading materials, web links, and a curriculum guide with lesson plans designed for middle and high school students.

The Sharing Knowledge site reflects the current state of an on-going project, with inevitable gaps and uneven representation of the different cultural regions. It will grow over time as more information is recorded and new contributors can be brought into the discussion. Please watch the site for continually updated materials and features.

Photography (C) Larry McNeil

As I mentioned this place has tones and tones of info about the cultures and the people, so it seems an unforgetable place to ask for help whenever I can manage to do the big trip!

The Atlas of Canadian Languages

September 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Language, Maps | 1 Comment
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I arrived to this series of maps by the Atlas of Canada via the Alaska Native Languages Map blog. They offer information about the situation of languages in Canada, from three different perspectives: the linguistic group, the usage and the continuity:

Atlas of Canada

The linguistic group map

The current 50 languages of Canada’s indigenous peoples belong to 11 major language families – ten First Nations and Inuktitut. Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. This map shows the major aboriginal language families by community in Canada for the year 1996, and it is a part of a series of three maps that comprise Aboriginal Languages.

Some language families are large and strong in terms of viability, others small and vulnerable. The three largest families, which together represent 93% of persons with an Aboriginal mother tongue, are Algonquian (with 147 000 people whose mother tongue is Algonquian), Inuktitut (with 28 000) and Athabaskan (with 20 000). The other eight account for the remaining 7%. Tlingit, one of the smallest families, has a mere 145 people in Canada whose mother tongue is that language. Similar variations apply to individual languages – Cree, with a mother tongue population of 88 000, appears immense when compared with Malecite at 660.
Influence of Geography on the Size and Diversity of Languages

Geography is an important contributor to the diversity, size and distribution of Aboriginal languages across Canada’s regions. Open plains and hilly woodlands, for example, are ideal for accommodating large groups of people. Because of the terrain, groups in these locations can travel and communicate with each other relatively easily, and often tend to spread over larger areas.

On the other hand, soaring mountains and deep gorges tend to restrict settlements to small pockets of isolated groups. British Columbia’s mountainous landscape with its numerous physical barriers was likely an important factor in the evolution of the province’s many separate, now mostly small, languages. Divided by terrain, languages such as Salish, Tsimshian, Wakashan, Haida, Tlingit and Kutenai could not develop as large a population base as the widely spread Algonquinian (particularly Cree and Ojibway) and the Athapaskan languages, whose homes are the more open central plains and eastern woodlands.

Geography can also influence the likelihood of a language’s survival. Groups located in relatively isolated regions, away from the dominant culture, face fewer pressures to abandon their language. They tend to use their own language in schooling, broadcasting and other communication services and, as a result, are likely to stay more self-sufficient. Communities living in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, the northern regions of Quebec and Labrador – the Inuit, Attikamek and Montagnais-Naskapi – are examples of such groups.

Because of their large, widely dispersed populations, the Algonquian languages account for the highest share of Aboriginal languages in all provinces except British Columbia and in the territories, ranging from 72% in Newfoundland to nearly 100% in the other Atlantic provinces. In both British Columbia and the Yukon, the Athapascan languages make up the largest share (26% and 80%, respectively), while Inuktitut is the most prominent Aboriginal language in the Northwest Territories and practically the only one in Nunavut. British Columbia, home to about half of all individual Aboriginal languages, is the most diverse in Aboriginal language composition. However, because of the small size of these language groups, the province accounts for only 7% of people with an Aboriginal mother tongue.

The ability map

The Index of Ability compares the number of people who report being able to speak the language with the number who have that Aboriginal language as a mother tongue. The index has been compiled and mapped for each of the Aboriginal communities shown in the map Aboriginal Languages by Community, 1996. Relatively higher values of this index may suggest some degree of language revival. This map is part of a series of three maps that comprise Aboriginal Languages.

The INDEX OF ABILITY may be used to suggest some degree of language revival. The index of ability compares the number of people who report being able to speak the language with the number who have that Aboriginal language as a mother tongue (consult text Data and Mapping Notes for further information).

There are a number of factors which contribute to a language’s ability to survive. First and foremost is the size of the population with an Aboriginal mother tongue or home language. Since a large base of speakers is essential to ensure long-term viability, the more speakers a language has, the better its chances of survival. Indeed, Inuktitut, Cree and Ojibway – the three most flourishing languages – all boast over 20 000 people with an Aboriginal mother tongue. In contrast, endangered languages rarely have more than a few thousand speakers; often they have only a few hundred. For instance, the two smallest and weakest language groups, Kutenai and Tlingit, have mother tongue populations of 120 and 145 respectively.

To survive, a language must be passed on from one generation to the next. The most effective way of making this happen is to speak it in the home where children will learn it as their mother tongue. Spoken in the home, language is used as the working tool of everyday life. In contrast, when learned as a second language, it is often used in potentially limited situations, only as may be the case, for example, in immersion programs. There is, therefore, no equivalent to learning a language as a mother tongue. Unlike other minority language groups, Aboriginals cannot rely on new immigrants to maintain or increase their population of speakers. Consequently, passing on the language from parents to children is critical for the survival of all Aboriginal languages.

The continuity map

The Index of Continuity measures language continuity, or vitality, by comparing the number of those who speak a given language at home to the number of those who learned the language as their mother tongue. The index has been compiled and mapped for each of the Aboriginal communities shown in the map Aboriginal Languages by Community, 1996. The lower the score, the greater the decline or erosion of language continuity. This map is part of a series of three maps that comprise Aboriginal Languages.

One way of measuring language continuity or vitality is the INDEX OF CONTINUITY. This index measures language continuity or vitality by comparing the number of those who speak an Aboriginal language at home to the number of those who learned the language as their mother tongue (consult text Data and Mapping Notes for further information).

Between 1981 and 1996, the index of continuity declined for all Aboriginal languages. Although the number of people reporting an Aboriginal mother tongue increased by nearly 24% between 1981 and 1996, the number of those who spoke an Aboriginal language at home grew by only 6%. As a result, for every 100 people with an Aboriginal mother tongue, the number who used an indigenous language most often at home declined from 76 to 65 between 1981 and 1996.

The index of continuity has some relationship to the ratings of languages as viable or endangered. Although most languages experienced a steady erosion in linguistic vitality during these years, endangered ones suffered the most. For example, the index of continuity for Salish languages fell from 35 in 1981 to only 12 by 1996. Tlingit and Kutenai, as languages most often spoken at home, had practically disappeared by the 1990s. Given that in 1996 there were only 120 people with a Kutenai mother tongue, it is not hard to see why there is a serious concern for the survival of this language. In contrast, although the continuity index dipped for the relatively strong Cree as well, it did so by considerably less: from 78 to 65. Although Inuktitut did experience a slight erosion in the early 1980’s, the past decade has seen its index stabilize at 84.

Groups that live in remote communities or in settlements with concentrated populations of indigenous speakers appear to find it easier to retain their language. Indeed, two such groups, on-reserve Registered Indians and the Inuit, show the highest indexes of language continuity among all groups: 80 and 85, respectively. In contrast, non-status Indians and Metis, who tend to live off-reserve, as well as off-reserve registered Indians have home-language-mother tongue ratios of 58, 50 and 40 respectively. This suggests a more pronounced state of language decline. Clearly, the off-reserve environment poses major threats to Aboriginal languages.

By 1996, these rates of language erosion resulted in strikingly different continuity levels for viable and endangered languages as a whole. For every 100 speakers with an Aboriginal mother tongue, an average of about 70 used an Aboriginal home language among viable groups, compared with 30 or fewer among endangered groups.

You can read data and mapping notes here.

Aleutians East Borough

September 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Alaska, Community, History | Leave a comment
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I found by chance a website about some Aleutian villages in Alaska, called the Aleutians East Borough. They have a lot of municipal (school, jobs, the pipeline…) and economical information, as well as some historical facts that I resumed here:

Aleutians East Borough

Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove, Nelson Lagoon, Sand Point

Stretching from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula to the easternmost Aleutian Islands, the Aleutians East Borough is like no other place on earth.This is a wild, dramatic region bordered on one side by the North Pacific Ocean and the other by the Bering Sea. It has been home to generations of Aleut families since the Second Ice Age.Today, the region is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, warm, generous people and the rich diversity of seafood found in the waters around it.



The History of Akutan

Akutan churchAkutan was formed in 1878 when a number of Aleut families from surrounding islands established a village at this location. The Russian Orthodox Church supported this move and constructed a church at the site. Western Fur and Trading Co. built a fur storage and trading post, and its resident agent started a cod fishing business in the village. In 1912 the Pacific Whaling Company built a processing station, which operated until 1939.

Akutan’s proximity to the Bering Sea fishing grounds brought the crab and fish processing industry to the community in the late 40s, at first through the operation of floating processors, followed in the early 1980s by construction of a shore-based processing plant owned by Trident Seafoods.

The History Of Cold Bay

The Cold Bay area, near the southern edge of the Bering Land Bridge, probably played an important role in the migration of Asiatic people to North America during the last Ice Age. Recent archeological surveys have found the presence of numerous ancient refuse heaps, which suggest large populations of Native Aleut people at one time inhabited the area.During the coastal explorations by Europeans, Russian ships wintered in Bechevin Bay, about 40 miles west of Cold Bay. Count Feodor Lutke bestowed the name “Izembek” on the region in 1827 in honor of Karl Izembek, the surgeon aboard the sloop “Moller”. During the 1800s and early 1900s, subsistence hunters and trappers visited Cold Bay.The Japanese invasion of the Aleutians Islands during World War II stimulated the rapid construction of a series of American strategic bases. One of them was Fort Randall, a large air base built on the shores of Cold Bay in 1942. At the height of the Aleutian campaign, thousands of troops were stationed at Fort Randall. The base was abandoned after the end of the war, but the landscape still bears witness to its military history in the form of a myriad of roads, historical sites and, most importantly, its airport runways.

History of False Pass

False Pass man The Aleut name for the community is “Isanax,” which means “The Pass.” Shallow waters and the narrowness of the channel caused the village and strait to be called False Pass, but it is indeed a major throughway between the North Pacific and the Bering Sea for all but the largest vessels.

Originally homesteaded by William Gardner in the early 1900’s, the village began to grow when P.E. Harris established the first seafood cannery in False Pass in 1917. Many of the original buildings came from a cannery that was abandoned in Morzhovoi Bay, about 30 miles away. Natives immigrated from Morzhovoi, Sanak Island and Ikatan when the cannery was built. A post office was established in 1921. The cannery operated continuously, except for 1973 – 1976, when two hard winters depleted fish resources. It was eventually purchased by Peter Pan Seafoods and dominated the economy of the town for decades.

In 1981 most of the plant was consumed in a huge fire, although some buildings and facilities remain. Peter Pan still plays a vital role in the community with its private dock, fuel sales, and store. For more than 20 years the False Pass Tribal Council governed the community. Now a second class city, False Pass incorporated in 1990.

King Cove Description and History

The first recorded settler at the cove was a man named Robert King, who lived there in the 1880s. In 1911, Pacific American Fisheries built a large cannery and employed Aleut and other Native peoples, Asian workers, and Scandinavian workers. Many Native people came from the villages of Belkofski, Sanak and False Pass. The community incorporated as a first class city in 1947. Peter Pan Seafoods is the successor to PAF. The cannery has been operating since 1911 (it burned in the 1970s but was immediately rebuilt). It is the largest salmon cannery in North America and also processes crab, bottom fish, herring, and other fish year round. A dozen traditional use hunting and trapping camps have been noted around the shores of Cold Bay and Kinzarof Lagoon, dating from the first half of the twentieth century.

History of Sand Point

Sand Point was officially settled in 1887. The Lynde and Hough Company of San Francisco set up a supply station and cod fishing station on Humboldt Harbor. The town that grew up around this station adopted the name Sand Point. Aleuts from surrounding villages and Scandinavian fishermen were the first residents of the community. These influences can still be seen in the names and faces of Sand Point residents

Sand Point served as a repair and supply center for gold mining during the early 1900’s, but fish processing became the dominant activity in the 1930’s. The St. Nicholas Chapel, a Russian Orthodox church, was built in 1933 and is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

Michael Krauss and the Eyak language

September 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Alaska, Language | Leave a comment
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Michael E. Krauss (born 1934) is a linguist who has worked extensively on the Na-Dené language family, especially on proto-Athabaskan, pre-proto-Athabaskan, the Eyak language, which became extinct in January 2008, and also numerous other Athabaskan and Eskimo-Aleut languages.

With his 1991 address to the Linguistic Society of America, Krauss was among the first to create an awareness of the global problem of endangered languages. He has since worked to encourage the documentation and re-vitalization of endangered languages across the world.

Krauss, professor emeritus, joined the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1960 and served as director of the Alaska Native Language Center from its inception in 1972 until his retirement in June 2000. He remains active in efforts to document Alaska’s Native languages and encouraged awareness of the global problem of endangered languages.

Krauss’ largest contribution to language documentation is his work on Eyak, conducted through much of the 1960s. Eyak was then already the most endangered of the Alaskan languages, and Krauss’ work is all the more notable considering that it represents what today might be considered salvage linguistics. While some Eyak data had been previously available, they were overlooked by previous scholars, including Edward Sapir. However, Eyak proved to be a crucial missing link for historical linguistics, being equally closely related to neighboring Ahtna and to distant Navajo. With good Eyak data it became possible to establish the existence of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family, though phonological evidence for links to Haida remained at the time elusive. Further, the system of vowel modifications present in Eyak inspired Krauss’ theory of Athabaskan tonogenesis, whereby tone develops from vowel constriction.

Font: Wikipedia

Odyssée Sibérienne and others

August 21, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Alaska, Scandinavia, Siberia, travel | Leave a comment
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I found my hero! I found a the website of Nicolas Varnier, a French guy who travels the North with a dog sledge! Wow! He has an interesting website, though it is in French. I am quite able to read it but too lazy  to translate it… Anyway you can take a look at it if you want. Wannabe that guy!

Nicolas Varnier

From all his expeditions, my favorite ones are l’Odyssée Sibérienne, l’Odyssée Blanche and the Translaponie:

Translaponie (Hiver 88- 89) de Kiruna à Mourmansk, 1000 km. Le Grand Nord Lapon a été le premier Grand Nord de Nicolas. Il s’y est rendu pour la première fois à l’age de dix-sept ans pour une longue randonnée à pied dans les vastes espaces sauvages du nord de la Finlande. Accessible depuis la gare du Nord de Paris, la Laponie était aussi le seul grand Nord adapté au petit budget qu’un étudiant sans le sous pouvait économiser et consacrer à cela. [Read more]

L’odyssée blanche (1999): depuis Skagway à Québec, 8600 Kilomètres. À l’origine de ce nouveau défi que Nicolas Vanier se lance à lui-même : son attelage, il est au top de sa forme . Formidables coureurs des neiges, puissants, endurants mais également très rapides, ses chiens ont réalisé de belles performances lors de la Yukon Quest , l’une des deux plus difficiles courses de chiens de traîneau auquel Nicolas à participé durant l’hivernage qu’il à effectué au Yukon avec sa famille qui s’est agrandie d’un petit garçon. [Read more]

Odyssée Sibérienne (Hiver 2005/2006): depuis le Lac Baïkal jusqu’à Moscou, 8000 Kilomètres. C’est une aventure dans des paysages époustouflants à la rencontre de peuples rivalisant d’ingéniosité pour vivre dans l’un des endroits jugé par d’autres comme l’un des plus hostiles de la planète. Sur plus de 8000 km de montagne, de taïga et de toundra, Nicolas Vanier et ses dix chiens progressèrent à raison de plus de 80 km par 24 heures sur une piste éphémère tracée une semaine avant son passage par des sibériens, trappeurs, éleveurs de rennes menés par une équipe Franco-Russe qui se relayèrent d’un village à l’autre, d’un campement à un autre depuis Irkoutsk jusqu’à Moscou. Cette Odyssée qui débuta le 2 décembre sur les bords du très mythique Lac Baïkal s’est achevée à la fin de l’hiver le plus froid de la planète, sur la très symbolique Place Rouge de Moscou , spécialement enneigée pour l’occasion, le 19 mars 2005. [Read more]

Yo can also check his movies:

Loup (un film produit par MC4 et distribué par Pathé. Tournage 6 semaines en 2008, sortie sortie la fin de 2009) Nicolas voue une véritable fascination à cet animal dont il a croisé la route plusieurs centaines de fois. Il a toujours rêvé de lui consacré un grand film. L’histoire de ce film est né de la rencontre que Nicolas avait faite avec une famille de nomades éleveurs de rennes au cours de sa longue traversée de la Sibérie en 1990. Pendant près d’un an, Nicolas vivant comme l’un des leurs avait partagé la vie de ces nomades et de leur grande harde, se déplaçant avec eux d’un alpage à un autre, à dos de rennes ou juché sur un traîneau. Il avait alors constaté le lien très fort qui unissait ces hommes au territoire sur lequel il vivait en parfaite harmonie. Territoire qu’ils se partageaient avec les loups qu’ils haïssaient et vénéraient en même temps.

– Le Dernier Trappeur (Long métrage de fiction – Décembre 2004): Norman Winther est l’un des derniers trappeurs à entretenir avec les majestueuses Montagnes Rocheuses une relation d’échanges fondée sur une profonde connaissance du milieu et un grand respect des équilibres naturels. Avec sa femme, Nebaska, une indienne Nahanni, et ses fidèles chiens de traîneau, Norman nous emmène à la découverte d’un autre monde rythmé par les saisons. Randonnées dans la froidure de l’hiver, descentes de rivières tumultueuses, attaques de grizzly et de loups sont le quotidien du trappeur. Norman cultive sa vie comme un art de vivre dans ce monde où les blizzards soufflent parfois plus fort que les mots. Ce film est un hymne aux pays d’en haut et à la magnificence de ces vastes espaces sauvages.

Breathtaking! I like to see that there are still adventurers today!

Sealaska Heritage Institute

August 17, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Alaska, Education, Research | Leave a comment
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Another interesting website for Sunday:

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is a regional Native nonprofit organization founded for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. SHI was established in 1981 by Sealaska Corp., a for-profit company formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). SHI, formerly Sealaska Heritage Foundation, administers Sealaska Corp.’s cultural and educational programs.

Programs
You can view their programs page here. The list is quite long! You can also take a look at their online language resources page here. Sealaska Heritage Institute produces Native language curriculum and other education tools through its Language and Education Programs. The institute encourages students and teachers to use its online resources to perpetuate and revitalize Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages.

Publications

Sealaska Heritage Institute has produced numerous books and videos relating to Alaska Native cultures, languages and historical events. The book collection includes language texts used in Native language classes. SHI is constantly developing new materials to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, the mission of the institute. Check them here.

Collections

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) houses more than 3,000 publications, approximately 20,000 photographic images, roughly 300 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items, and more than 750 linear feet of manuscript material that document the history, culture, heritage, and language of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Below is a sample of some of the center’s special holdings, including digitized photograph and manuscript collections and
views of artifacts:

    Dr. Walter A. Soboleff ANB Papers: In 2007, Dr. Walter A. Soboleff officially donated to SHI his papers, which document his time as a ranking official within the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). Funded by IMLS from 2005-2007, SHI staff arranged and scanned a significant
    portion of Soboleff’s ANB papers. The scanned papers are now available online and consist of over 1,000 pages of material that span 1929 to 1995. Scanned papers include issues of the ANB periodical “The Voice of Brotherhood,” ANB meeting minutes, correspondence, working files, camp files, and papers that show how ANB fought to improve the lives of tens of thousands of Alaska Natives.

    Digital Photo Collections: This link takes researchers to a selection of online photographs from
    the Special Collections Research Center’s holdings. These images date from 1880 to the present and document various aspects of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian life. This web album will continue to grow as materials are added by Special Collections staff.

    Digital Celebration Photo Archive:This digital interface is a searchable database of historical photographs from the institute’s collection showcasing select photographs from SCRC’s Celebration Photograph Collection. The database includes images of the first Celebration festival in 1982 and from various festivals that followed. The creation of this photo database was funded by a two-year
    grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services.

    Bowlsby Collection: In July 2002, a private collector donated more than 50
    Alaska Native cultural objects and a slide collection to Sealaska Heritage Institute. It is the largest private collection of cultural objects ever given to SHI. The collection includes baskets, halibut hooks, carving tools, spoons, a rattle and a number of stone objects that appear prehistoric, said SHI President Rosita Worl, a Tlingit anthropologist.

    William Paul, Jr. Photos
    :This photography collection features Southeast Alaska Native people during the 1940s through the 1950s, and they are a joy to view. However, much of the information identifying people, places and events depicted in the photographs has been lost. We are hoping you
    will help! We are interested in anything you have to say about the photos — perhaps you remember some of these events and have stories or memories to share?

    Tlingit Fighting Pick: An old, stone artifact received by Sealaska Heritage Institute in 2003. The object was discovered in the early 1950s in the village of Kake by Lloyd Davis during
    a construction project and later presented to SHI by Davis’ son, John Davis. The artifact measures 16 inches in length and weighs about 5 pounds. SHI is trying to determine the age of the artifact and the type of stone used. SHI asked Native elders, museum personnel and academic experts to view the artifact and to consult with the institute about the object’s potential historical use. Two theories have emerged.

    Curry-Weissbrodt Collection
    : In 1981 a wealth of Alaska Native land-claims documents were donated to SHI by I.S. Weissbrodt and James E. Curry, tribal lawyers who represented the Tlingit and Haida Indians from the 1940s. SHI has scanned and digitized a selection of key documents from
    this collection and they are posted on our website for public use. The project was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Impressive! They run also a blog, you can check it here if you want to keep in contact with them.

Riding an Utapanashku

August 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Alaska, Traditions | Leave a comment
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Have you ever wanted to ride an Innu toboggan through the snow? If this was your childhood dream, you can now make it come true thanks to François Bellefleur of Uanamen-shipu, who offered the description for the diary of Peter Armitage (Fall 1982):

Construction of an Utapanashku

utapan – a toboggan; automobile
utapaniapi – rope used to haul the toboggan
utapanashku – a toboggan; snowmobile; he/she loads his toboggan
utapanikueu – he/she makes a toboggan; he loads someone’s toboggan
utapatshimaushu – he/she pulls a child on a toboggan.
utapatshimeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeun – a tobaggon load
(Lynn Drapeu. 1991. Dictionnaire Montagnais-Français. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec. p.879).

Tools used to make the toboggan included a hacksaw, pocket knife, crooked knife (mukutan), extremely sharp axe, small hand plane, pot for hot water, “brush” (split stick with old rag in end), holding wedge tool, a flat carpenter’s pencil, screw-driver-push drill, and a “needle” made out of twisted snare wire.

Some pictures

Looks like quite a hard job, but summer can be so boring for snow addicts!

Survival’s campaign: Progress can kill

July 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Rights | 1 Comment
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And actually, it does kill, as it shows one of the most shocking campaigns. To keep the post on topic I will include here only the information related with polar tribes, but please, go and check the full campaign as it deserves all your attention.

Progress can kill

Forcing ‘development’ or ‘progress’ on tribal people does not make them happier or healthier. In fact, the effects are disastrous. The most important factor by far for tribal peoples’ well-being is whether their land rights are respected. Some of the problems affecting tribal peoples are HIV/AIDS, starvation, obesity, suicide or addiction. The last three specially affect the indigenous people living around the polar circle.

Obesity
Tribal peoples without land are forced into a sedentary life and many become dependent on processed foods. This change in lifestyle and diet – from high-protein to high-fat food – is often disastrous, leading to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the Pima reservation (Arizona), more than half of Indians over the age of 35 have diabetes; while those living in the mountains suffer far less from this condition. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that excess weight and diabetes will lead to ‘earlier deaths and disabilities’. If untreated or detected late – as is common with tribal peoples – diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease and amputations. The impact on future generations will be catastrophic.

‘The human costs of unrestrained development on our traditional territory, whether in the form of massive hydroelectric development or irresponsible forestry operations, are no surprise for us. Diabetes has followed the destruction of our traditional way of life and the imposition of a welfare economy. Now we see that one in seven pregnant Cree women is sick with this disease, and our children are being born high risk or actually sick.’
Matthew Coon-Come, Cree, 2002

Addiction
Dispossessed and alienated tribal peoples often take to drugs, usually the cheapest and most easily available such as alcohol and petrol. The health of individuals and families collapses. Babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome, children get little care from addict parents, teenagers follow suit, and once-respected elders are alienated from younger generations. Cycles are fixed which cannot be broken by merely treating individuals or symptoms. The entire society falls apart.

Among Innu youth, sniffing petrol is an acute problem. In the long term this addiction can cause convulsions and permanent damage to the kidneys, eyes, liver, bone marrow and heart. In 2000, 11-year-old Charles Rich died by accidentally setting himself on fire when sniffing petrol. A child who witnessed this horrific death said:

‘My name is Phillip. I’m a gas [petrol] sniffer. I sniff gas with my friends. In wintertime, we steal skidoos and we steal gas… I don’t go home because I sniff gas. And I sniff gas because both my parents are drinking and I’m mad at that… At one point Charles ran towards me when he was in flames but because I was sniffing gas and the fumes were very strong on me, I ran away. I was afraid I would be caught on fire too.’

Suicide
Tribal people across the world suffer from the trauma of forced relocation and settlement. They find themselves in an environment they are not used to, where there is nothing useful to do, and where they are treated with racist disdain by their new neighbours.

Their children may be taken to boarding schools which separate them from their communities and often forbid or ridicule their language and traditions.

Alienated and without hope, many take to drugs and alcohol. Domestic violence and sexual abuse soar. Many resort to suicide. In Canada, Indian groups who have lost their connection to their land have suicide rates up to ten times the national average; those with strong links often see no suicides at all.

The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land. We don’t have space any more. In the old days, we were free, now we are no longer free. So our young people look around them and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live. They sit down and think, they forget, they lose themselves and then commit suicide.’
Rosalino Ortiz, Guarani Ñandeva, Brazil, 1996

I think that the words speak for themselves. If you want to learn more about it, you can take a look at the whole campaign and also read the full report.

Meeting the Aleutians

July 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Naming | Leave a comment
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After another long break – not my choice, for sure – I’ll try to continue with this huge and quite impossible project. I was reading I don’t know what on the Internet and I ended up in the Wikipedia page for the entry “aleut”. Their lands remind my a “tail” of an exotic animal, just where Alaska finishes. You can see that in the map of this older entry. It would be amazing to travel there! This is what I found out:

The Aleuts

The Aleuts (self-denomination: Unangax̂, Unangan or Unanga) are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, United States and Kamchatka Krai, Russia. The homeland of the Aleuts includes the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, the Shumagin Islands, and the far western part of the Alaska Peninsula. During the 19th century, the Aleuts were deported from the Aleutian Islands to the Commander Islands (now part of Kamchatka Krai) by the Russian-American Company.

History

After the arrival of missionaries in the late 18th century, many Aleuts became Christian by joining the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the earliest Christian martyrs in North America was Saint Peter the Aleut.

In 18th century, Russian furriers established settlements on the islands and exploited the people. (See Early history)

There was a recorded revolt against Russian workers in Amchitka in 1784. It started from the exhaustion of necessities that the Russians provided to local people in return for furs they had made. (See: Aleuts’ revolt)

In 1811, Aleuts went to San Nicholas to hunt. There was argument over paying the Nicoleño for being allowed to hunt on their island, a battle began almost all of the native men were killed. By 1853, only one native was left. (See Island of the Blue Dolphins)

Prior to major influence from outside, there were approximately 25,000 Aleuts on the archipelago. Barbarities by outside corporations and foreign diseases eventually reduced the population to one-tenth this number. Further declines led to a 1910 Census count of 1,491 Aleuts.

In 1942, during World War 2, Japanese forces occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians, and later transported captive Attu Islanders to Hokkaidō, where they were held as prisoners of war. Hundreds more Aleuts from the western chain and the Pribilofs were evacuated by the United States government during WW2 and placed in internment camps in southeast Alaska, where many died. The Aleut Restitution Act of 1988 was an attempt by Congress to compensate the survivors.

The World War II campaign to retake Attu and Kiska was a significant component of the operations of the Asian theater.

Culture

Aleuts constructed partially underground houses called barabaras. According to Lillie McGarvey, a 20th-century Aleut leader, barabaras keep “occupants dry from the frequent rains, warm at all times, and snugly sheltered from the high winds common to the area”.

Traditional arts of the Aleuts include hunting, weapon-making, building of baidarkas (special hunting boats), and weaving. 19th century craftsmen were famed for their ornate wooden hunting hats, which feature elaborate and colorful designs and may be trimmed with sea lion whiskers, feathers, and ivory. Aleut seamstresses created finely stitched waterproof parkas from seal gut, and some women still master the skill of weaving fine baskets from rye and beach grass.

Aleut basketry is some of the finest in the world, and the tradition began in prehistoric times. Early Aleut women created baskets and woven mats of exceptional technical quality using only an elongated and sharpened thumbnail as a tool. Today, Aleut weavers continue to produce woven pieces of a remarkable cloth-like texture, works of modern art with roots in ancient tradition. The Aleut term for grass basket is qiigam aygaaxsii.

Language

While English and Russian are the dominant languages used by Aleuts living in the US and Russia respectively, the Aleut language is still spoken by several hundred people. The language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family and includes three dialect groupings: Eastern Aleut, spoken on the Eastern Aleutian, Shumagin, Fox and Pribilof islands; Atkan, spoken on Atka and Bering islands; and the now extinct Attuan dialect. The Pribilof Islands boast the highest number of active speakers of Aleutian.

In popular culture

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, the character Raven is an Aleut harpooner seeking revenge for the US’s nuclear testing on Amchitka. The Aleut tribes are also the subject of the Sue Harrison’s Ivory Carver Trilogy that includes Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, and Brother Wind, in addition to being the subject of Irving Warner’s 2007 historical novel about the Attuans held as prisoners of war in Japan, “The War Journal of Lila Ann Smith”.

The entry on Wikipedia is quite short, but the books listed on the bottom look like interesting summer readings. Maybe it would be a good idea to start gathering the titles of books and novels related with the subject of the blog, as I already do with the links. What do you thing?

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