Determined to save Indigenous language

Documentary filmmaker Daniel Golding joins the show to talk about one man's focus on Native language. Plus Carina Dominguez looks at how some families, businesses, and healthcare workers are dealing with changes due to the pandemic. And Stewart Huntington has more on Alaska's fading Indigenous languages.

Beginning in 1907, John Peabody Harrington crisscrossed the United States frantically searching and documenting dying Native American languages. Today we're joined by documentary filmmaker Daniel Golding who is Quechan. Golding is on the show to talk about what became an obsession for Harrington.

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing changes in the way healthcare, education and businesses operate. Correspondent Carina Dominguez takes a look at how these sectors have restructured and the effects on Native communities.

Alaska is home to more than 20 Native languages but some are fading and others are threatened. Stewart Huntington reports on what is now being called a crisis.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • Deb Haaland makes her first appearance in Utah today as Interior secretary. 
  • Alaska says it’s taking over management of its waterways from the federal government. 
  • The town of Martha’s Vineyard is being ordered by Massachusetts’s First Circuit Court to work with a tribe that wants to build a bingo hall. 
  • The Cherokee Nation and the Oklahoma Air National Guard are building 21 homes for Cherokee veterans. 
  • A group home serving Innu youth in Quebec, Canada is being investigated for human rights abuses. 
  • As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, tribal businesses are starting to reopen.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show

Daniel Golding:

"This project was kind of a long road in the making, so to speak. I was involved years ago with language. I wanted to do master apprentice language learning to speak my language from my Quechan on language. I was doing that master apprentice stuff. And during my learning the language, I came across Harrington who had documented our creation story from a man named Joe Homer back in like the early 1900s, 1907, somewhere in there."

"And so I just kind of researched him a little bit and I was kind of fascinated by his story. I thought it was just this really kind of interesting story of what he had done and the fact that nobody has really ever heard of him. He's this eccentric linguist ethnographer who documented all these different languages over million pages of notes on over 150 different Native American languages."  

"And all these notes are sitting in the Smithsonian and the fact that tribes can access them and be able to use them to revitalize or rebuild their languages was just interesting thought to me in a story. So then I was just like maybe this is my next story. Maybe this is my next film that I do. I just had finished my first one Waila! Making the People Happy, which was about chicken scratch music."

And this was sort of my next sort of leap into it. And and I was personally connected to it because I was involved with language revitalization myself. So it was kind of a good fit. I think my tribe, Quechan, we're pretty lucky in the sense of, we still have fluent speakers left. My dad is a fluent speaker who never taught me how to speak the language, but because of what he had to deal with growing up."

"But my aunts and my uncles also speak the language. In doing the research and working on this film, I found that there were tribes that had no speakers left and that they were really, really working hard to try to rebuild their languages and stuff. And Harrington's work really was the link to bring back those languages. And we talk about that in the film a little bit with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash and their work with rebuilding their languages based on only solely Harrington's notes."

"And it's just amazing how that impacted them in such a good way, to use those notes. So yeah, it's really important. And his notes have been used in other ways, too. For documenting sacred sites or tribal recognition. I think some tribes have used his notes to help them regain federal recognition. There's a lot there, and I think there's so much there, it's such a big collection. I mean, just to go through them and stuff like that, it's painstaking at some times."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent for the Indian Country Today. Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7

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