Adding new, young speakers to Indigenous language communities is the ultimate—and only—critical measure of the success of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032).
Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine
I was born and raised in the western highlands of Guatemala in Xelajuj No’j. Five years ago, I embarked on a journey to learn my ancestral language as an adult. This journey has been difficult due to the disappearance of the K’iche’ language in the second generation of my family. My grandmother’s first mother tongue was K’iche’, and while my mother is able to understand it, she is unable to speak it. I am unable to understand or speak the language.
Kakapusa, (erasure, or amnesia) in the Khoikhoi language, defines our Khoi reality in South Africa, a nameless country. No other group has experienced such violent systemic erasure on our own lands and with quite such intensity as our Khoi Peoples. It is frightening at times, given that 40 percent of this country is called “the Karoo,” which in Khoikhoi means “dry place.” Indeed, the Karoo is an arid place. So how, then, are we forgotten?
Behind every crisis, there is the loss of culture or language that a targeted people face. The people who are affected are merely seen as victims. At the heart of the slow-burning Rohingya genocide, we Rohingya have lost touch with our own culture and the originality of our oral language. This is another oppression against Rohingya.
Sʔím̓ laʔxʷ Michele Johnson PhD (Syilx) is Executive Director, lead activist, and teacher at the Syilx Language House. She is a member of Okanagan Indian Band, related to Simlas and Richters with Syilx and Suyápix (Euro) ancestry.
By the beginning of the 19th century, during the colonial rule of Portugal in Brazil, there was a general, common Indigenous language spoken by numerous Indigenous Peoples as a second language in northern Brazil, parts of Venezuela, and Colombia with some similarities to languages spoken in Paraguay. Some historians say that the Indigenous Peoples themselves, mainly Guarani and Tupi-speaking, created this language. Others say that it was a language created in partnership between the Tupinikin and Guarani Peoples and the Jesuit priests.
The following is an excerpt of Dr. Wilton Littlechild’s (Cree) keynote address at the “Restoring and Protecting Our Native Languages and Landscapes” Conference.
Me he manu e pūʻā ana i ka ʻai mai kona waha e hānai ai i kāna keiki, pēia e hānai ʻia ai ka ʻōlelo ʻōiwi mai ka waha mākua a i ka waha hanauna hou. A ma ka piʻi ʻana o ka mahina ʻo Mauli ma ke anahulu ʻo Hōʻemi ma ka malama ʻo Mahoehope a i ka iho ʻana o ka mahina ʻo Hilo ma ke anahulu ʻo Hoʻonui ma ka malama ʻo ʻIkuwā ua lālā aku ke kumu lāʻau i kanu ʻia he mau anahulu makahiki i hala iho nei e ka ʻohana Cultural Survival. A he kumulāʻau heahea manu ʻōiwi ia a ua pane ʻia ua kāhea aloha. Ma o ka ʻenehana ua ʻākoakoa mai nā lālā manu ʻōlelo ʻōiwi like ʻole mai kēlā kihi kēia kihi o ka h
This is a story about an ancient language that resides on the Kamchatka peninsula on the Pacific coast of Russia. Itǝnmǝn (“the one who exists”), known today as Itelmen, is a language of the salmon people who were born from Mitti, a wise wife of Kutkh, the Great Raven Creator.