Culture Clash: Fast Food and Indigenous People

July 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Health, North Pole, Traditions | Leave a comment
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I find this interesting audio recording through Indigenous People Issues. I was quite surprised not only because of the subject, fast food, but specially for the format. Audio recordings is still not a widely extended way of communication on the Internet for formal issues, though its pedagogical skills made it a very good tool for spreading knowledge in an easy way. A podcast or something like this would be great to have.

Culture Clash: Fast Food and Indigenous People (Audio Piece) from Sharon Shattuck on Vimeo.

Sorry for the lack of preview or embedded video, it’s just Wordpres that’s not friends with Vimeo…

The subject of fast food and its impacts really interested me, as I’m, or I try to be a conscious consumer concerning food and some other stuff, beacause of the ecological and social impacts and also for the health. Off-trend iniciatives around indigenous communities seem a very good iniciative, as the impact is (even) worse in some of them.

Revitalizing Indigenous Languages

August 16, 2008 at 2:25 am | Posted in Language, Research | 1 Comment
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Thanks to Northern Arizona University I found this interesting paper about indigenous languages revitalization. This is a field on which I have been interested before, probably because of my linguistic education at the university. And because personally, I totally agree with the fact that language is one of the most important things regarding cultural diversity. The paper is quite long, so I just selected some parts of it. You can read the full version here.

Some Basics of Indigenous Language Revitalization
Jon Reyhner

Fishman’s eight stages of language loss

Based on his study of minority languages worldwide, Fishman postulated in his landmark 1991 book Reversing Language Shift a continuum of eight stages of language loss with stage eight being the closest to total extinction and stage one being the closest to dynamic survival. Fishman’s eight stages are summarized below and in Figure 1 along with suggestions on what can be done to promote indigenous language use at each stage based on presentations at the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages symposiums and other sources. It is important to remember that one of Fishman’s stages can only roughly approximate the real situation of a particular indigenous language, and it is imperative to understand that different approaches to language revitalization are called for depending upon the current health of a language and unique local conditions.

(go here and see the scale)

The role of technology in revitalizing indigenous languages

The final section in this volume is on the uses of technology in indigenous language revitalization efforts. There has been telling criticism of “technofixes” for endangered languages. Hilaire Paul Valiquette writes that,

Computers are the most questionable of language teaching tools. They are not cost-effective; they bypass intergenerational teaching; they often involve handing over control to technical experts. They are very often connected with bad L[anguage] teaching (word lists, clicking on the face to hear the word ‘nose,’ etc.). Their use makes a patronizing statement: “the superiority of technology of the dominant culture is saving you.” (1998, p. 111)

However given that, he goes on to write, “Computers do have a use in long-range language preservation” (1998, p. 111).

The first paper in this section by Mizuki Miyashita and Laura Moll describing a dictionary project is a good example of using technology to inexpensively aid both language documentation and to make that information more accessible to indigenous language learners. The second paper by Amar Almasude focuses on how cassette tape recorders and other new technologies have allowed an oral culture to be maintained and diffused both within Morocco and and among emigrants abroad. The last paper by Robert St. Clair and his colleagues gives useful information to anyone interested in publishing indigenous language materials.

Teaching and supporting indigenous languages

Anyone studying the issue knows how threatened indigenous languages are everywhere in the world despite the rhetoric of tribal policies and the Native American Languages Act in the United States and similar efforts abroad, such as the 1992 Sámi Language Act in Norway (Corson, 1995). However, this volume emphasizes the positive steps being taken to effectively revitalize indigenous languages so that Native people who wish to keep their languages alive can get some guidance from the efforts currently being made around the world. And I want to emphasize that these efforts supporting indigenous languages indicate that children can learn an international language such as English along with their indigenous language. English does not have to be purchased at the price of losing one’s indigenous language.

However, if we are to get beyond teaching students numbers, colors, and names of animals, teacher education will be critical in regard to school programs designed to revitalize indigenous languages. There is a large body of experience with second language teaching that can inform teachers of indigenous languages. In particular, Joyce Silverthorne, a member of the Montana State Board of Education, dealt at the 1997 symposium with the broad overview of education required for a professional indigenous language teacher. An excellent inservice teacher training model for promoting indigenous language preservation and teaching that incorporates modern research on second language acquistion is described in the appendices of Stabilizing Indigenous Languages (Cantoni, 1996, pp. 234-239). Developed by Richard Littlebear and the staff of the Interface Alaska Bilingual Multifunctional Resource Center, the model stresses the importance of the use of the Total Physical Response (TPR) and “Natural” approaches to language learning for beginning language instruction. The model also discusses the importance of attitudes towards language, building a theoretical base, building a rationale for language preservation, classroom teaching methods, practical applications, and follow-up to training. Immersion teaching methods, such as Greymorning describes in this volume, are most conducive to developing communicative competence, but they require fluent teachers who are not always available. Teresa McCarty and her colleagues described at the 1997 symposium an intensive summer training program for teachers of indigenous languages, and Cantoni and Reyhner (1998) summarized what educators can do to help with indigenous language revitalization.

Steve Greymorning’s 1997 symposium presentation on “Going Beyond Words” and paper in this volume describe various efforts to teach Arapaho to school children, which had more and more success as the teachers were taught various immersion language teaching methods and spent more classroom time using them to teach Arapaho, but he concludes by advocating the Maori “philosophy of language from the breast,” which emphasizes intergenerational language transmission in the home. The Maori have started language classes for mothers with children 16 to 24 months old. Mothers learn Maori while their babies also learn the sounds and cadences of their tribal language. Veronica Carpenter described at the 1997 symposium how young children pick up the sounds and rhythms of the language(s) spoken around them and how older children not so exposed to their tribe’s language need specific help to pick up that sound system they did not learn at their mother’s side.

It is well known that infants who are breast fed pick up immunities from childhood diseases from their mother’s milk, and I maintain that children who learn their indigenous language and culture at their mother’s breast pick up immunities from the diseases of modern life that lead our children to joining youth gangs, abusing drugs and alcohol, and becoming members of the rootless consumer society described by Robert N. St. Clair in his talk on “The Invisible Doors Between Cultures” at the 1997 symposium. The message about the values of indigenous languages and cultures that I found on the Iñupiaq wallet card I received in Anchorage at the Third Annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium needs to be a part of any indigenous language revitalization effort. Whichever of Fishman’s stages an indigenous language is in, there is a need to convince people, indigenous and non-indigenous, that keeping the language alive is important. This need for “marketing” indigenous languages was described at the 1997 symposium in regard to the Maori of Aeotora/New Zealand by Rangi Nicholson.


Indigenous language activists first need to determine the current status of their language and then set realistic goals for their language revitalization efforts. Irregardless of whether these goals include literacy, once goals are established, language activists need to concentrate on the methods, materials, and motivation they will use to achieve their goals, what I term the three “M’s” of indigenous language education (see Figure 4). It is these three “M’s” that will either lead indigenous language learners to communicative competence and more sophisticated language usage or to failure.

No one person, community, school, university, tribe, or government program has all the answers to keeping any indigenous language alive. It is only through sharing successes and learning from failures that the extinction of indigenous languages can be prevented. More needs to be done to create a network of information sharing between indigenous communities. The five symposiums and associated publications, including this volume, Revitalizing Indigenous Languages, are among the many attempts to get the word out about the importance and value of indigenous languages, the current peril they are in, and what can be done to revitalize them.

Go and take a look on their site, if this is a subject you are interested in.

Indigenous People Issues & Resources

August 15, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Education, Links, News, Organization | Leave a comment
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Thanks to a comment, two weeks ago I found this site, dedicated to indigenous people. It does not have information about all the tribes, but it keeps growing and its future seems promising!

Welcome to Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resource

Today, our world is experiencing a rapid decline in cultural diversity. One in five people in today’s world speak the same language: the Mandarin Chinese spoken by the largest single ethnic group in the world – the Han – whose 1.3 billion population represents 92 percent of the mainland Chinese population and 19 percent of the world’s population. Likewise, in India – the world’s second most populous country – there are 415 living, recognized languages, but the majority of people speak either Bengali or Hindi. Linguists recognize some 6,000 to 7,000 spoken languages, of which 5,000 or so are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent an estimated 6 percent of the world’s population.

Many of these people, and their language and culture, face a questionable future. The relatively rapid decline in language diversity parallels the decline in cultural diversity. These changes are due in part to the product of both historical relationships – imperialism, colonialism, Cold War economic development, and militarism – as well as cultural beliefs that rationalize or justify actions that serve the powerful at the cost of lands and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources is a new site that is slowly developing. Our goal is to provide information and resources for those concerned about, and for, indigenous peoples around the world. We recognize that our actions in the West effect indigenous peoples in all parts of the world – the consequences of water diversion and hydroelectric energy projects, militarization, global and national events, and consolidation of natural resource access, and the like are all having an unprecedented impact on the world’s indigenous peoples. But we can do something.

It is our belief that cross-cultural communication and understanding – as well as easily accessible information and resources – is one of the keys to helping indigenous peoples maintain their language, culture, and identity. We hope that you also share this belief. Diversity is one of the strongest components to a healthy world. Together we can help and make a difference – from large to small.

I will dig into it later on. Looks promising, doesn’t it?

Say it right: clarifying terminology

July 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Naming | 4 Comments
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Thanks again to Survival I found a small compilation of terminology related to indigenous peoples. Given the fact that pejorative terms have already been used for years, it is important to show respect using the right words:

There are a huge variety of terms used to describe the peoples most commonly called ‘tribal people’ or ‘indigenous people’. All of them are problematic; none are entirely satisfactory:

Some general terms

Tribe: means a distinct population, relatively small in number, with a common language and culture, dependent on their land for their livelihood, and not assimilated into the national society. This is perhaps the term most readily understood and used by the general public, and for that reason is commonly used by Survival (as in the expression ‘tribal peoples’). Many anthropologists dislike the term, believing it evokes the colonial era. Some English-speaking indigenous people, especially more politically active Indians in North America, also dislike it. However, many tribal peoples themselves use it. For example, almost all American Indians use the word ‘tribe’ to describe themselves to others, eg ‘the White Mountain Apache Tribe’, or the ‘Northern Arapaho Tribe’. Although nearly all tribal peoples are also indigenous, not all are: for example, many of the Thai hill tribes are not indigenous to the areas where they now live, having settled there relatively recently.

Native: the words ‘native’,’ aboriginal’, ‘autochthonous’ and ‘indigenous’ are virtually synonymous; in this context they mean a people who are originally from the area in which they still live. In other words, they have not arrived from somewhere else, but to all intents and purposes have developed in the land which is their ancestral territory. (Of course, according to current theories of human evolution, homo sapiens first evolved in Africa and subsequently emigrated to populate the globe, but as this is thought to have happened around 60,000 years ago, its practical ramifications can be ignored.) The terms ‘native people’ in Canada, and ‘native Americans’ in the USA, are perfectly acceptable in those countries, but the use of the English word ‘native’ elsewhere has rather colonial connotations, particularly in Africa, and should therefore be avoided if possible. ‘Nativos’ in Spanish has similar connotations in many South American countries (but not all).

Aboriginal: most commonly used in Australia, where it is slightly preferred (by some Aboriginal organisations) to the term ‘Aborigine’, although both are in common usage. The Spanish word ‘aborígen’ is common and perfectly acceptable in Argentina to describe that country’s indigenous people, though it is little used elsewhere in South America.

Indigenous: this is perhaps the term most often used by specialists and academics, although it is not in such common usage amongst the general public. Not all indigenous people are tribal: the Quechua and Aymara Indians of the Andes, for example, form what could best be described as an indigenous peasantry, being the majority rural, agrarian population in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and often well integrated into the national economy. The Spanish term ‘pueblos indígenas’ is regularly used throughout Latin America and is perfectly acceptable (whereas pueblos tribales is neither).

Autochthonous: apart from in India, this is hardly used in English. In French, the term ‘peuples autochtones’ is widespread in academic debate, though not common elsewhere.

Some place-specific terms:

Indian: applies in this context only to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although some, particularly in the academic world, may worry that it has disparaging overtones, it is very commonly used by the people themselves. Almost all North American Indians will use the word perfectly happily to describe themselves (obviously, there are exceptions). In the USA, some prefer it to ‘native American’, as they feel the latter implies they are simply another national minority like African Americans or Hispanic Americans, rather than people who lived in that land before the state of America was created. For Spanish usage, the word ‘indio’ generally (though not universally) has derogatory connotations, although some urbanised Indians in the Andes have reclaimed the term. The Portuguese word ‘indio’ is not derogatory in Brazil, where it is commonly used by Indians and their supporters.

Red Indian: almost never used by the people themselves, it now has racist overtones and is best avoided.

Amerindian: a term that has now fallen out of use, though it is still the word most often used in Guyana to describe that country’s indigenous people (‘Indian’ is not used there, as a large part of the national population is originally from India).

First nations: a phrase that has developed in Canada to describe that country’s indigenous people. It is not used elsewhere.

Well, there is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a beginning. I may look the terms up in some dictionaries, but that will be for another day post.

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