Foundation for Endangered Languages
4. Appeals, News and Views from Endangered Communities
Letter-Writing Campaign to Help West Papuan Refugees
The Friends of Peoples Close to Nature-Intercultural seeks support in its letter-writing campaign against the plans of the Papuan New Guinea governments to expel the West Papuan refugees. Materials for the campaign are available at http://westpapuaaction.buz.org/unreview and may be amended to suit your purpose. The Forum for “Friends of Peoples close to Nature” is a movement of groups and individuals, concerned with the survival of Tribal peoples and their culture, in particular hunter-gatherers. These were the first and are the last societies on earth to have a non-exploitive relationship with the natural word. The task, according to the Forum, is to help tribal peoples preserve their unique cultures from enforced assimilation, alien religions, the ideologies of “progress” and “growth” and absorption into the global economy.
Request for finance: Land for the Agta on San-Ildefonso Peninsula
Since time immemorial Agta have lived in the Sierra Madre and on the Pacific coast including the San-Ildefonso peninsula. Agta are Negritos. The Negrito race is by far the oldest one in Southeast Asia and adjacent Oceania. Like all Negritos the Agta traditionally live a vagrant hunter-gatherer life in the natural forests.
Within the past 20 years Malay o-Filipinos, the mainstream society on the Philippine archipelagos, have intruded and stolen almost all the ancestral Agta land. Agta are seen as inferior and are de facto without rights so if a Filipino makes a claim on land where Agta live they have no choice but to move.
The San-Ildefonso peninsula, some 30 km long and 2 to 10 km wide, remained for some time one of the last retreats and strongholds of the Agta peoples. In the last 10 years however, masses of Filipinos have intruded on the peninsula, cut down the remaining forests and evicted Agta from their ancestral lands. The legal authorities never intervene.
A few years ago the the Government supported logging industry started to exploit the peninsula. Loggers do not even spare the fruit trees, used for generations, in front of Agta huts. The powerful logging interests do not tolerate any protest by Agta people.
Much of the mountainous interior of the ancestral Agta land is relatively undeveloped and therefore used as a retreat by guerrilla fighters. Agta often get caught in military conflicts with the guerrilla and are killed. In military conflicts in the 80's and 90's some three quarter of all Agta men were murdered.
Everywhere, except on the San-Ildefonso peninsula, Agta have become a tiny minority within their own lands. Additionally, within the last few years, Agta have been forcibly mixed with Filipinos and pure Agta children are now rare.
Some facts about the land: The land is situated on the south-west coast of the San-Ildefonso peninsula, on the slopes of the highest mountain in the area which rises 700m above sea level. Most of the 10 hectares are covered by natural forest and the land reaches almost down to the shore. In the vicinity of the land there are some Agta families, while Filipinos, who claim much of the area, visit only occasionally. The land is accessible by a two hour boat journey from our land in Dipuntian or, when the sea is calm, by a similar journey from the small town of Dinadiawan opposite the peninsula. There is no title for the land; we will buy the rights from a Filipino who claimed it a couple of years ago. This procedure is very common in the Philippines.
Land use: Agta families, who have been evicted from their land by Filipino settlers or loggers, will be allowed to live on the land. There they will be safe from further eviction. We will take up to 10 Agta families. Other people will not be allowed to live permanently on the land. We will also allow sick Agta to stay on the land and we will treat them with appropriate medicine. Generally, Agta face difficulties in getting proper treatments in the local public hospitals.
Most of the land will be protected as a strict nature reserve. Agta will be allowed to do traditional hunting and gathering. Cutting of forest trees will be strictly forbidden.
Other fPcN activities for the Agta:
Donations may be sent to:
SPIRIT WALK: A Race Against Time — 1700 Mile Walk to Raise Awareness and Funding for the Preservation of Lakota Language and Culture
Time is running out for the Lakota Nation. Their language, once the most widely spoken Native language in North America, is now in danger of becoming extinct. On July 11th, a group of concerned people will take the first steps of a 1700 mile journey they call ‘Spirit Walk’ to help raise donations for The Seven Fires Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the Lakota people preserve their culture and language by bringing elders and children together to teach their native language.
Besides raising money, the goal for the Spirit Walk, according to John LaFountaine, President of the Board of Directors, is to show the world ³what the Lakota people have given to this Nation and to humanity and the desperate situation in which their culture, their language and their way of living is at risk right now.²
Fewer than 25% of the Lakota population currently speak or understand their native tongue and fewer than that are fluent. The Oglala Lakota College predicts that within the next generation more than 90% of the population will no longer be able to speak or understand Lakota at all. The Seven Fires Foundation believes that the imminent loss of the Lakota language has important consequences for the Lakota Nation both today and in the future. Once a culture loses its language, the loss of its cherished cultural ways is often not far behind. The impact of this on a culture is devastating.
With the right support, The Lakota language has a realistic chance for long-term survival due to the available documentation and the fact that there are still people alive who speak the original language. Because most of these people are elders, the time to act is now.
There are over 100,000 people in the Lakota Nation and the majority of them live in areas on and off reservations near the Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. With the bicentennial celebration of Lewis and Clarke¹s western expedition beginning this year, awareness is growing about the current challenges facing the Lakota and other tribes whose way of life was vastly changed by the opening of the western passage 200 years ago.
The Spirit Walk starts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Porcupine, South Dakota and will travel through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia before landing in Washington D.C. in late September where the organizers will meet with government representatives and request assistance for all programs that preserve Lakota and other indigenous cultures in the United States. The walkers plan to average 20-30 miles per day, stopping in communities to share their message of hope through storytelling and music.
Seven Fires Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide humanitarian services and preserve the ancient traditions for the generations to come. A vital part of this mission is to extend supportive services, by helping to raise support, for children, traditional medicine people and traditional cultures in need.
For More Information, write to Spirit Walk 2003, c/o Seven Fires Foundation, 89001 Hwy. 42 South, Bandon, Oregon 97411 USA. You can contact the SEVEN FIRES FOUNDATION through their website Error! Reference source not found. or email. By telephone, the Foundation can be reached at 541-347-7801.
Amazon nomads celebrate land victory: Triumph for Brazil’s last hunter-gatherers after 20-year Survival campaign
Brazil’s last hunter-gatherer Indian tribe face the future with more confidence this week, after the demarcation – mapping out and marking on the ground – of the Awá Indians’ land was completed. This legal recognition of their territory, ordered by a judge, was the main objective of a 20-year Survival campaign.
Much of the Awá’s rainforest has been invaded by ranchers, loggers and settlers, who killed many Indians. Only 300 Awá remain: about 60 still live uncontacted in small nomadic groups. The EU- and World Bank-funded Carajás industrial project was responsible for much of the devastation. On Wednesday 12 March Survival handed in a petition of over 40,000 signatures to the Brazilian authorities urging the government to implement a long term programme to protect the Awá area – particularly the uncontacted Indians – and to ensure that the illegal ranchers and settlers are permanently removed.
To'o, an Awá leader, explains why preserving the forest is so crucial:
'We live in the depths of the forest and we are getting cornered as the whites close in on us. Without the forest we are nobody and we have no way of surviving. Without the forest we'll be gone, we'll be extinct.'
Photos and footage available. For more information contact Fiona Watson on (+44) (0)20 7687 8730.
Bushmen Against Botswana
24 January 2003: Case Against Botswana To Be Heard
The crucial case for the “Bushmen” of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) has been referred to Botswana’s High Court to be heard as “a matter of urgency.” The court will consider the case brought by over 200 Bushmen and determine if they were deprived of their land by the Botswana government forcibly, wrongly or without their consent. At least 1500 Bushmen have been evicted from the CKGR.
The court will also determine if the government’s destruction of the Bushmen’s water supply, ban on the Bushmen hunting for subsistence, and refusal to allow Bushmen to enter their land without a permit are “unlawful and unconstitutional.” The case was thrown out of court last April on a technicality at the request of the Botswana government. The Bushmen have been removed from their land where they lived for thousands of years and dumped in resettlement camps, which they describe as “places of death.”
Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said that “This case must be heard with the utmost urgency. The evictions happened nearly a year ago, and the case has still not been heard. The Bushmen are dying in the relocation camps; they think it’s a government scheme to finish with them once and for all.
12 June 2003: Botswana President: Bushmen Can't Go Home
President Mogae of Botswana told a protester in the UK this week that the !Gana and !Gwi 'Bushmen' who have been forced off their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve will not be allowed to go home. He declared, 'the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is for animals, not people.'
President Mogae was met by a peaceful protest outside University College, Oxford, where he was having lunch during his visit to the UK. When asked by a student if the Bushmen would be allowed to go back to their homes in the Reserve, he replied, “No, no, no, they won't.” The video of the encounter has been passed to Survival, and can be viewed at http://www.survival-international.org/bush%20mogae.htm
This statement by President Mogae appears to pre-judge the ongoing court case bring brought by the Bushmen to be allowed to go home. It also contradicts numerous assurances by Ministers that the Bushmen are free to return to the Reserve, and have not been forced out against their will.
A representative of the college students handed President Mogae a letter which declares, 'The eviction of tribal peoples from their land, and their forced assimilation into an alien society is intolerable... Those Bushmen who wish to return to their land should be allowed to do so.'
Scottish ‘monolingual mindset’ exposed in Gaelic name case
Innovative use of technology may assist endangered languages
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003
Two Victoria-based organizations - The First Peoples' Cultural Foundation (FPCF) and Trafford Publishing – are exploring ways to support and enhance existing First Nations language programs and encourage the revitalization of endangered languages around the world.
They have begun to use Trafford's service in full-color book publishing to create a series of customized full-color primers-in several Aboriginal languages..
"There are more than 6,500 languages spoken around the world," says Simon Robinson, Executive Director of the FPCF. "It is estimated that 90 per cent of these languages will be extinct by the end of the 21st century. Unless we act now to support their revitalization, thousands of years of accumulated human knowledge is at risk of disappearing without record." In Canada, British Columbia is home to 32 of the country's 50 Aboriginal languages. By building tools and providing resources that support community language initiatives, Robinson's organization aims to help endangered languages thrive again.
In their initial collaboration, Trafford and the FPCF will publish primers on colors and numbers. There will be five different versions of the book - each featuring a different First Nations language. As a testament to the speed and accessibility of Trafford's new publishing tool, a proof of the first book in the series - a book in Sencoten created by students of the Lau,Welnew Tribal School on the Saanich Peninsula - was produced in under one week.
Future work includes expanding the series to include an alphabet primer, books on conversational phrases, and dictionaries; and translating the primers into other First Nations languages. The new technologies will enable First Nations communities and individuals to produce their own wide range of books in their own languages.
"We are really excited about the work of the First Peoples' Cultural Foundation," states Bruce Batchelor, co-founder and CEO of Trafford Publishing. "Our on-demand publishing system can provide the FPCF with an accessible and cost-effective way to produce dictionaries, children's books - any imaginable printed resource - in First Nations languages."
Generally, once a manuscript and accompanying artwork are complete, Trafford can have the book ready for distribution to classrooms and retail outlets in as little as four weeks. It will be stored as a digital file and printed on-demand using a Xerox DocuColor system
"Xerox has been a leader in Print On Demand since the initial launch of high-speed digital print engines more than 20 years ago. Our latest generation of digital printing devices, particularly the DocuColor family of digital color presses, enables the cost-efficient production of full-color books such as these First Nations primers," said Peter W. Perine, vice president and general manager, Xerox Publishing Segment Marketing. "In this high-growth area of Print On Demand, Xerox is helping customers produce high-quality books in short run lengths and quick turnaround times."
The First Peoples' Cultural Foundation is committed to the documentation, protection and revitalization of the full diversity of Aboriginal language,arts and cultures. It has garnered worldwide attention for FirstVoices.com, a web-based Indigenous language archiving application that it has developed and made available online. Indigenous groups from Canada, Australia, Europe and the USA are preparing to use the FPCF's tools. (See www.fpcf.ca)
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A landmark Convention on the Future of Europe adopted the first Draft Constitution for an enlarged European Union by consensus on Friday, 46 years after the founding Treaty of Rome was signed. After 16 months of heated debate and bargaining the adopted Draft Constitution will present the basis for a future constitutional treaty of Europe.
The European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL), as an independent Non-Governmental Organisation working for languages and linguistic diversity, has participated in the debate about the future of the EU from the beginning. EBLUL-President Bojan Brezigar welcomes the new Draft Constitution:
“The new text marks a variety of achievements. I note in particular:
Although overall EBLUL is satisfied with the Draft Constitution for the new Europe, it regrets that the Convention introduced new political criteria for EU-accession regarding the Union's values (Article I-2) which refer neither to diversity nor to minority languages or minority rights. These new accession criteria for EU-Membership differ significantly from the ones decided in the Presidency Conclusions of the Copenhagen Council on 21 and 22 June 1993 and which had a clear reference to the respect for and protection of minorities. This might create problems for future enlargement.
“Moreover, we are disappointed about the fact, that Article III-5.1 on non-discrimination does not refer to language as a possible ground for discrimination” says Brezigar. “This is contradictory to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU in general and to Article II-21 in particular, which refers to language as a possible ground of discrimination. The contradiction will have concrete consequences: Although the EU does in principle forbid discrimination on the basis of language, in practice no affirmative actions against a possible or real discrimination are allowed, since Article III-5.1 does not explicitly allow the EU to become active in this field.”
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Lithuania/Ukraine: Karaims Struggle to Maintain their Language and Culture
Karaim is an endangered Turkic language spoken only by an estimated 50 speakers mostly living in Lithuania. RFE/RL traces the ethnogenesis of the Karaims and highlights present-day efforts to maintain their language and culture.
Prague, 22 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Karaims are the descendants of Kypchak tribes who lived in the tribal union of the Khazar empire in the Crimea between the eighth and 10th centuries. In the eighth century, the Karaims converted to a form of Judaism known as Karaism, which may be described as a return to the roots or "sola scriptura."
The Karaims later split into three main groups. One group remained in the Crimea; another moved to Galicia, in part of present-day Ukraine; and the third group -- the largest -- in the 14th century left for what is now the town of Trakai in present-day Lithuania.
By the end of the 17th century there were about 30 Karaim communities in eastern Central Europe. But just 100 years later, their numbers had been drastically reduced as a result of epidemics and wars. Nevertheless, they were given status as a religious community by the respective countries in which they found themselves.
According to a 1992 study by Lithuania's National Research Center, the country's Karaims are considered a national minority and "original inhabitants" of Lithuania.
The sect of Karaism to which the Karaims have belonged since the eighth century is known as Anan ben David, a form of Judaism that acknowledges the Old Testament, but rejects the Talmud. According to Karaim religious teaching, reading the Bible is the duty of each believer. This religion is distinct from Rabbinical Judaism. The Karaim house of worship is called a kenesa. Today there are two functioning kenesas in Lithuania, one in Vilnius and one in Trakai.
In the 19th century, Karaim intellectuals became aware of the need to develop a literary language and publish periodicals in Karaim. The vocabulary of the Karaim language is strongly influenced by folklore, proverbs, riddles, and folk poetry, but lacks many abstract terms and has not expanded to incorporate words to express many scientific, technical, and philosophical concepts.
Until the 20th century, Karaim literacy was based on a knowledge of Hebrew. At first, Hebrew characters were used for writing Karaim, but later the orthographic system was based on the writing systems of the countries in which Karaims lived. After Lithuania gained independence in 1990, Karaims adopted an orthography based on the Lithuanian writing system. The most comprehensive grammar of Karaim is by the well-known Turkologist Kenesbay Musaev.
Estimates place the number of Karaim speakers today at around 50. This includes about 45 speakers of the language in Lithuania and only five speakers in the small settlement of Halych in Ukraine. This has led to Karaim being classified as a "seriously endangered" language in the UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages. The maintenance of their mother tongue and the revitalization of community life are the most urgent tasks facing the Karaims today.
Several projects today are aimed at maintaining conversational Karaim. One such project, designed to document the spoken language, has been carried out by Professor Eva Csato Johansson, a specialist of Karaim at Sweden's Uppsala University. She launched a program in 1994 to document the language by means of voice and video recordings.
Working with other linguists, she also produced a multimedia CD which has been in use by the community in order to support the revitalization of the language in Lithuania, and help linguists who want to learn about this language.
Csato praised the local Ukrainian authorities in the town of Halych, home to the five remaining elderly speakers of the Halych dialect of Karaim, for their efforts to publicize and preserve the Karaim language and culture. "Now in spite of the fact that the Halych community consists of only five old speakers, this is a very, very powerful little community. In 2002, in September, they could organize an international conference on Halych Karaim history and culture which evoked very great interest," Csato said.
This, Csato said, was partly due to the support the Karaim community received from Halych authorities, which has provided financial aid as well as help in maintaining Halych traditions.
The Karaim community in Lithuania, too, receives support from the state for the development of its culture. The Lithuanian Karaim Cultural Society, under the leadership of Karaim musicologist Karina Firkaviciute, seeks to promote Karaim cultural traditions through courses and programs especially designed for the approximately 250-member Karaim community in Vilnius and Trakai. Karina is one of the very few young native speakers of the endangered Karaim language.
Firkaviciute told RFE/RL that a great deal is being done to help preserve Karaim culture. "As the Cultural Society of Lithuanian Karaims, we are trying to maintain the language, and the most important thing is to be able to give the children the possibility to learn the language. So we are trying to organize each summer a kind of summer camp for Karaim children, where they can get some time to learn the Karaim language. But of course they would need to do it more often and during the whole year, not only in the summertime," she said.
She also praised the work of Eva Csato Johansson, especially the CD-ROM she compiled for people who would like to learn the Karaim language. "[It] includes also some dictionary, and grammar and sounds, and you would be able to learn how to read and how to pronounce it correctly, so it is quite a live thing. It is a very fresh and nice thing, but it is not yet published, and you would not be able to buy it. But we expect it every second to come, so there would be already the scientific background for the future lessons, and also we are trying to document the language in the sense of printing the books, printing the poems or literature or some articles on the Karaim language, on something that has been written in Karaim language, etc.," Firkaviciute said.
Firkaviciute said the various Karaim communities maintain contacts with each other and meet practically every year. RFE/RL asked her if she was optimistic the language would survive. "I would say, 'yes,' and if somebody is not, I would say we should actually be optimistic, because otherwise you are not able to do anything," she said. "And of course the only pessimistic note that could be here is that the [size] of the communities is very small, but it is not the main thing which could make you pessimistic. If you are pessimistic, then you are not a human being. You should be optimistic, and I think we are optimistic, and we will try to do something to make other people more optimistic. But it's the main thing just to stay with those positive moods, because otherwise there's no way to run."
As an example of her language, Karina read a Karaim poem entitled "Syru Trochnun": "Being faraway our brothers always remember our native lands. Elders and the young, everybody from distant places always come back to Trakai. There everybody enjoys the nature, summertime on the islands. Youth will not come back, so we have to remember and being faraway not to forget about Trakai. What is the secret of Trakai, why does everybody long for that small town? You have to tell that secret even for the youngest -- Youth go there because of young nice girls and we all go and long for Trakai because of tradition."
Some are convinced languages like Karaim, which have only a few speakers, are doomed to extinction. But Professor David Crystal, an internationally recognized linguist and supporter of endangered languages, believes that a language can survive regardless of the number of speakers -- as long as there is support for the language.
"It is possible for a language to survive, to regenerate -- to 'revitalize' is the usual term -- regardless of the number of speakers it has. There are cases on record of peoples with just a few hundred speakers who have, with appropriate support, managed to maintain their language presence and to build upon it," Crystal said. This should be encouragement to the small community of Karaims in Trakai.