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4. Appeals, News and Views from Endangered Communities

Manx Gaelic Medium Unit Confirmed
Bernard Moffatt, Celtic League

Moves to continue the promotion of Manx Gaelic continue apace. In the latest move a language unit is to be created, with the backing of the Department of Education.

The new unit will allow for the teaching of initially 12 primary age children (later up to 25) exclusively via the medium of the language.

The new project will be housed in its own facility at St. Johns, in the west of the Island (due for completion in 2002). Until the premises are completed, and so as not to delay the project, the unit will first open, in September 2001, at an existing school in the Douglas area.

The group behind the new initiative, Sheshaght ny Paarantyn, (parents for Gaelic Medium Education), say that the new unit, " will enjoy a certain amount of independence" but "will be within the mainstream education system ensuring the children enjoy facilities and activities available to other children and can join with other children for sports, assemblies, meal times and playtimes".

They point out that, " Research carried out in the Gaelic units in Scotland has shown that children adapt well to an additional language at this stage, listening to and absorbing the language first, as with newborns, not questioning points of grammar, simply accepting them within the context of the spoken language".

The latest move follows an expansion in the availability of Manx preschool places provided by Mooinjer Veggey (Reported in CARN 112 - the Celtic League journal).

The move would appear to confirm the commitment of the Manx government to the Manx language. Education Minister, Steve Rodan MHK, said, "I am very pleased that we are in a position to bring forward these plans for primary teaching through the medium of the Manx language".

An ambitious Manx language programme is now well underway at various levels of the Education system and the main impediment to future progress is likely to be the ready availability of teaching and support staff with Gaelic language skills.

The Language and Cultural Siidas of the Finnish Sámi

This from Tove Skutnabb-Kangas through the good offices of Kathleen Tacelosky
11 Aug 2001

Siida is a Sámi word that means the group of families/reindeer herders that take care of their reindeer together. It could also mean the reindeer village, or a mountain camp - both the reindeer and the families in the village/camp. It can also simply mean 'home'.

More than 4,000 of Finland's 7,000 Sámi live in the Sámi Homeland. The Sámi Homeland of Finland covers the municipalities of Enontekiö, Utsjoki and Inari and the Lappi Reindeer Herding District - the village of Vuotso - in the municipality of Sodankylä. The Sámi, being a minority in the area, constitute a third of the whole population of the Sámi Homeland.

In Finland, three Sámi languages are spoken: North Sámi, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi. North Sámi is the first language of some 2,400 Sámi, Inari Sámi that of some 300 Sámi and Skolt Sámi that of some 400 Sámi. Inari is the only one of the municipalities of the Sámi Homeland where all these three Sámi languages are spoken.

Economically, Sámi culture is based on traditional livelihoods: reindeer herding, fishing and hunting. Traditional Sámi handicraft and tourism are also an important source of income. The Sámi livelihoods contribute greatly to the unity of the Sámi community, the maintenance of the identity and the use of the Sámi language. If the language is no longer used in everyday connections, the rest of the culture will also be threatened. Giving up the original mother tongue means that a person will no longer feel as close to the original identity, either.

The Sámi language is no longer spoken as widely as earlier, and, at the same time, the present generation is about to lose its cultural traditions. In such a situation, it is difficult to pass the Sámi heritage and language on to future generations. Especially the Inari and the Skolt Sámi languages are threatened, as these languages are not supported as strongly as North Sámi is by the Nordic community.

A very illustrative comment was made by a Inari Sámi adolescent, who said that customs and traditions are not very significant - the only thing that matters is the language. The young are losing their connection to their own indigenous culture.

The idea of the project originated from the need of Sámi families to get support and advice in order to become re-integrated into their own lingual and cultural backgrounds. A committee was appointed to promote this pilot project on February 25th, 2000, consisting of Maria Sofia Aikio from the municipality of Utsjoki, Jarmo Siivikko and Pirkko Saarela from the municipality of Inari and Ristenrauna Magga and Birit Kitti from the Finnish Sámi Parliament. The municipality of Sodankylä settled for rendering their opinion on the work of the committee. The municipality of Enontekiö did not appoint a representative to the committee. The purpose of the committee was to turn the project idea into a project and to prepare the application for assistance.

The project The Language and Cultural Siidas of the Sámi is a way of promoting the use of the Sámi language and passing the Sámi culturar heritage on to the offspring by using the resources of elders in a genuine cultural environment and community; it is also a way of strengthening the identity of Sámi of various ages. Indirectly, it also aims to provide children an opportunity to switch into Sámi-speaking day care and to be able to later study in Sámi at school. As a project supported by the European Social Fund cannot have children under the age of 15 as its target group, the aim is to influence children through their parents. By focusing the work and support on the know-how of the parents and those working with pre-school education, it is also possible to promote the maintenance and development of the Sámi skills and culture of children. The cultural siidas try to support schools as weel as those working with Sámi children in pre-school education by cooperating and coordinating activities on the basis of the Sámi cultural heritage.

The project The Language and Cultural Siidas of the Sámi is part of Northern Finland's Objective 1 program, which aims to increase economic growth in the area and to create circumstances that enable the population to earn a living and to develop so that the number of inhabitants in the area will no longer decrease. In this program, the project is part of the rural dimension, which has the development of skills in the countryside as one of its priorities.



The project will increase skills in the sphere of Sámi culture, create new jobs and provide educational opportunities for those lacking education. The project will promote know-how in rural areas through the development of training dealing with Sámi culture, and, thus, it will contribute to raising and guaranteeing the skills of the Sámi-speaking lab

At the same time, it will also anticipate the needs of the Sámi Homeland in the spheres of education and skills. Through a system of apprenticeship, the employees of the project will be able to become qualified youth and recreation leaders with culture as their special field. The training is planned according to the needs of the individuals and their work, which means that the work will comply with the objectives of the project.

The final and long-term objective of the project is to provide the Sámi with the opportunity of existing - in future, too - as a nation that leads, in its own terms, its own life which is based on its own language, culture and way of life without becoming assimilated to the main population. At the same time, the project will also consolidate the indigenous status and promote the well-being of the Sámi through strengthening and developing their condition in terms of language and culture.

At present, the leaders of the cultural siidas have been chosen and they are mapping out the Sámi families and elder Sámi who are interested in participating in the project. We are also looking for facilities for the siidas, and the actual practical work of the cultural siidas will start on September the 3rd 2001.

The person to contact if you want to know more is Pia, the director of the project who is based at the Saami Parliament:

Pia Vieltojärvi
Saamelaisten kieli- ja kulttuurisiida -projektin projektipäällikkö
Saarikoskentie, FIN-99870 Inari, Finland
phone (+358) 16-665030

Changing Scripts in Written Azeri

Mark Leisher reported, quoting

Azerbaijan changed from Cyrillic to Latin on Wednesday 1 August 2001, its third change of script in the past century. Originally literate for centuries in Arabic script, the country used Cyrillic for most of Soviet rule, except for a 1929-1939 experiment with Latin.

During the 1990s, the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, whose languages are also Turkic, have also adopted the Latin alphabet. Azerbaijan has been slowly moving toward the Latin alphabet since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but previous decrees lacked strict requirements and concrete deadlines.

There is a site on the Azeri language at

King of Morocco Announces Creation of Berber Culture Institute

From the FEL V conference chairman, Hassan Ouzzate

Tangiers - (Maroc AP : 30.07.2001)
King Mohammed VI announced in a speech delivered this Monday on Throne Day a project to set up a Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture that will promote the Amazigh culture and participate, with concerned ministerial departments, in conceiving and following up the process to integrate the teaching of Amazigh language in the Moroccan educational system. The institute will also propose appropriate policies to consolidate the place of Amazigh (Berber), a component of national richness, in the national social, cultural and media space as well as in the local and regional affairs.

Language of the Bounty mutineers to be taught in island school
By Nick Squires in Sydney
(sent in by a reader of Ogmios on an anonymous newspaper clipping)

THE Colourful patois of Norfolk Island, a tiny speck of land in the South Pacific inhabited by the descendants of the mutineers from the Bounty, is to be taught in its only school in an attempt to save it from extinction.

“Norfolk”, a relic of 18th century English peppered with Polynesian is falling victim to the encroachment of Australian English, prompting the move to add the language to the curriculum for the next school year.

The argot is highly localized, with some words referring to specific incidents and people in the island’s history. “Loan bin kikyu”, for instance, means ugly, a reference to an islander once being kicked in the face by a horse named Logan.

“I only speak English when there are English-speaking people present,” said Alice Buffett, 70, who traces her family back to the leader of the mutineers, Fletcher Christian. “We still speak Norfolk to each other, hut Ws getting terribly Anglicized. It’s going out the backdoor.”

Mrs Buffett has compiIed a dictionary of Norfolk Island words as well as an encyclopaedia of grammar and pronunciation. She hopes to stem the erosion of the language as an increasing number of the 1,800 islanders marry

Australians and New Zealanders and local children are exposed to Australian English in films and television.

The language, emerged from a tangled string of events more than two centuries ago. In 1799 the crew of H.M.S. Bounty, led by Christian, mutinied against their captain, William Bligh. The mutineers sailed. to Tahiti, where they collected local women, and from there made their way to Pitcairn Island, where they hoped to evade British justice.

In 1856, the 194 Pitcairn islanders still surviving emigrated to Norfolk Island, which lies 1,000 miles east of Australia, hoping to make a better life for themselves. A few trickled back to Pitcairn over the next few decades, and the island is now home to about 40 people, who speak the same language as Norfolk Islanders.

Around half of Norfolk Island’s population are descended from the original mutineers and. their Polynesian wives. The West Country origins of their language are easily detectable but the sing-song Polynesian lilt makes it difficult for the outsider to follow a conversation.

If islanders speak slowly it is possible to understand about a third of what they are saying. “We baut yu gwen?” means “where are you going?”, while “fut nort?” translates as “why not?”

Official Australian poliey played its part in contributing to the near extinction of Norfolk, according to Professor Peter Mühlhäusler from Adelaide University, an expert on Paeific island languages.

“For many years, the school system on Norfolk Island had a deliberate system of marginalising the Ianguage. People were gradually shamed out of speaking it. Now people see it as an important part of their identity and history,” he wrote recently.

The islanders are determined to instil the language in younger generations. “If your mother tongue dies out it’s like having your right arm ripped off,” Mrs Buffet said. “It goes to the core of our identity.”