This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the 110th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Montreal, Quebec. The title of the meeting was Traces, Tidemarks and Legacies, and scholars from around the world came to present on various panels. I was most interested in a panel forged together by Maliseet ethno linguist and anthropologist, Professor Bernard C. Perley, titled, Legacies. The panel was divided into two sections, with the first focused on indigenous language revitalization strategies. Key scholars that participated in the language session included Bernard C Perley (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Margaret C Bender (Wake Forest University), Margaret M Bruchac (University of Connecticut), Lisa Philips (University of Alberta) and Allan McDougall (n/a), Nancy J Furlow (University of Alaska Anchorage), and Darren J Ranco (University of Maine).
The presenters in this first panel covered a wide range of topics, but I found the work on revitalization and language acknowledgment to be quite interesting and informative. The work of Margaret Bender from Wake Forest University, has been working with Cherokee communities dealing with language visibility and environmental awareness of place within Cherokee communities in North Carolina. The use of the Cherokee names and the use of the Cherokee syllabary in business signs throughout the community push the Cherokee language to the forefront of day-to-day activities.
This promotion of not only the language, but the use of the Cherokee syllabary is a different experience than that of many other polysynthetic languages who do not have written languages and have adapted their language to linguistically accepted forms. This is related to my post on the Indian Country Today article The Indomitable Language, check it out!