Foundation for Endangered Languages

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3. Appeals and News from Endangered Communities

On 2 July 1997, I received a message from someone concerned about languages in these families in South Africa, and I divulge the general content here. It may be that some reader of YPK may be in a position to help. If so, his e-mail address is 106013.3462(at)

Khoe and San in South Africa

My name is Nigel Crawhall. I am a sociolinguist working with the South African San Institute in Cape Town. Darrell Posey suggested I get in touch with you... I thought it would be helpful if I told you a little about what I have been doing and what I am looking for in London.

After having working for 6 years for another South African NGO promoting the use of African languages, in particular Xhosa, in public institutions like schools and hospitals. We were very involved in advocacy of multilingual policy and related matters. Since September 1996 I have been working with the San Institute. It is a new, service NGO affiliated to the San represenative council based in Windhoek. It is not an indigenous people's organisation itself, it acts as a resource organisation, mostly on land claims, and my work on language survival.

With a small project grant from Denmark I visited most of the Khoe and San communities in South Africa. I explained what their new language rights are in the constitution and how this is likely to operate, including the functions of the new language board. Then I collected their concerns, mostly around language death and stigmatisation, and discussed what actions they and the government can take to address the situation.

The current language situation is quite dire. In all but a few communities the youth do not want to speak the old languages. The old people have tremendous knowledge but are seen as backwards and ignorant. The school system excels at undermining the communities...

The most dramatic situation is in the Southern Kalahari where there is one woman of 96 years who is a fluent speaker of /'Auni. She is not only the last fluent speaker (there are no semi-speakers), /'Auni is also the last language of the whole Southern San language family. When Elsie dies a whole chapter of South Africa's history closes. The family are desperate to record her language and her life story, though interestingly no one has initiated language learning with her.

From my side, I have offered to help but am keenly aware that I know little about how to do this. I have some support from a British activist / film-maker who worked in the Canadian high arctic for 10 years. I imagine that you may know of other similar situations and could possibly advise me on successful efforts in other places to do language work from which the community can benefit.

The situation is more manageable with the Nama and !Xu speakers who number in the thousands. But they too face the serious prospect of language death from similar factors, including the serious generation gap and stigma attached to being aboriginal people.

Akha latest

Subject: Re: Akha Language
Date: 22 June 1997
Dear Mr McDaniel

I have included your appeal in our latest Newsletter (#5, 30 June). I imagine we shall also be discussing it at the FEL General Meeting.
Regards Nicholas Ostler

From: "Matthew McDaniel" akha(at)
Subject: Re: Akha Language
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1997

Thanks for bringing us up.

Our web site is growing. We also have secured a printing press for purchasing at the price of $3,000 US which we are now attempting to raise so that we can begin printing Akha language books for the Akha as well as those interested in collecting endangered language books for their libraries.

We have moved our school after fallout with a major sponsor who felt the language was not important and are now running again this morning, the kids missing only ten days while we secured a new building, a little entry money and got everyone moved with the shirts on our backs it would seem. Though there are no windows in the building yet, we have lots of space and hope to see much good come of it. We have also found another Akha language teacher for these children.

Thanks so much, Matthew McDaniel

The Akha Heritage Foundation
Akha University
397/1 Sailom Joi Rd
Maesai, Chiangrai, Thailand 57130
phones temporarily down

Belize latest

From: Arctos(at)
To: indknow(at)
Subject: Belize Library Rescue
MIME-Version: 1.0

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The Central American Institute of Prehistoric and Traditional Cultures at Belize urgently needs your assistance. The Institute has the largest research and educational library in Belize, consisting of irreplaceable books, photographs, artifacts, field notes, and other archival materials. The cumulative effect of last year's rain storms damaged the library and archival storage. Algae, microflora, worms, and the dense tropical moisture penetrated our building, rapidly destroying the collection. We have managed to take part of the collection out of the severely damaging environment. It is presently boxed in an air-conditioned storage facility in Miami, awaiting necessary attention. Part of the collection is still in Belize, waiting for additional funds needed to retrieve it. Through volunteer efforts, everything possible was done to slow down the damage. Still, unless everything is removed, and professional conservation measures taken, the damage cannot be halted. Several of our staff members have returned to the United States to appeal for help in rescuing this irreplaceable resource. We have initiated a Library Rescue Operation to raise emergency funds, and urgently need your support.

The Central American Institute, located in the Cayo District, was established under a registry charter in 1991, and granted full recognition by the Ministry of Education of the Government of Belize, in accordance with the Education Act of 1991, Section 38. The Institute is a non-profit, research, and educational institution, established for the purposes of promoting the preservation of ancient and traditional worldviews and materials, and to act as a center for the dissemination of knowledge and interest in the study of such cultures. The Institute aims at preserving indigenous cultures through the preservation of traditional knowledge.

The library and archives form an integral part of its mission and activities, and we have amassed important data in the areas of consciousness studies, shamanism, rainforest and traditional healing techniques, and alternative medicine. The collection contains documentation of indigenous groups that are facing cultural assimilation. If these field notes, slides, photographs, and artifacts are destroyed, there will be no way to replace them. The collection also consists of plant specimens and materials collected through ethnobotanical fieldwork, documenting and exploring the medicinal value of rain forest flora. The destruction of this information would be a great loss to all who value our planet's biodiversity, and seek new medical solutions to today's health problems. Furthermore, the Institute's collection consists of some rare and out-of-print books, providing an extremely valuable resource to ethnologists, botanists, pharmacologists, historians, and others. The collection also contains research and documentation about the Maya, Creole, and Garifuna populations of Belize and the neighboring regions. The data, however, are not limited to Central America, but contain information on cultures around the world: from South America, to the Middle East, to Siberia. Once this material is lost, this cultural and educational resource will be gone forever.

The rescue is to be carried out in three phases, as follows:
Phase I: Salvage: Remove and Store.
The collection needs to be dried, repacked, and shipped to a safe, temporary storage facility until we can rehabilitate a facility for the collection. This will require movers, customs fees, transport fees, and storage fees, totaling $60,000. Phase II: Restoration and Conservation.

Professional restoration and preservation of the collection: books, field notes, plant specimens, photographs, slides, audio and video recordings, computer disk repairs. Total: $25,000 (contingent on rescue time).

Phase III: Provide a safe facility for the collection.

Construct safe housing for the library and archives, so that it can be brought back into circulation. Total: $55,000.

Emergency Fund Goal: US $140,000.

We still need funds to complete Phase I before we can proceed with the Library Rescue. We have volunteers waiting to begin with the conservation task, but we are short of funds to subsidize the efforts. We also need help to disseminate this appeal to other parties within your own, as well as other related organizations and memberships, in the hopes of consolidating our efforts to save the Institute's research and cultural resources.

We turned to major foundations for assistance in this emergency situation. Among others, the Coca-Cola Foundation, which has major interests in Belize and claims to specialize in education, sent us a pamphlet, three weeks after our emergency request, without even a letter acknowledging receipt of our appeal. The MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, which lists Belize as a target area for its mission, turned us down based solely on a query. As yet, we have not received any help from a funding organization, although we continue with our efforts. Therefore, we decided to turn to several targeted sectors of Internet users. Never before has the Institute asked or received any public support for its operations.

We can provide documentation of our non-profit and educational status, and a detailed break-down of the allocation of funds. Further information about the Institute can be obtained on our Website (below) . The Institute is also listed in Issue 4 of the People and Plants Handbook,= published by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), UNESCO, and Royal Botanic Gardens-Kew.

In these times of modernization, Westernization, and technology, traditional life is being displaced and destroyed irrevocably. It is imperative that we preserve cultural and natural resources, traditional epistemologies, and biodiversity. We appeal to you to support the Central American Institute in its drive to preserve these resources for the benefit of the developing country of Belize, as well as the global community.

We all thank you for your understanding and support. Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Naxon,
Professor and Director
Emergency Fund, Central American Institute at Belize, 8033 Sunset Blvd., Suite 2040, Los Angeles, CA 90046, USA
+1-818-344-8516 (Emergency Fund line)
Checks can be made payable to: Central American Institute. Your contribution will be formally recognized by the Institute, as well as on our homepage.

Nueva Sede de Coordinación Ashaninka en Lima - Peru

Fecha : A partir del 1 de Agosto de 1997.
(casa Ashaninka).
Jr. Las Madres Selvas No. 188
Urb. Los Recaudadores.
Salamanca de Monterrico Ate.
Lima 03 - Peru.
Telefono : Tel/fax. (051-1) 435 13 78.
Fax. (051-1) 241 13 20.
E-mail : ashaninka(at)
Lima, MIERCOLES 23 de Julio de 1997.

Estimados hermanos y amigos:

Reciba el cordial saludo Amazonico de Trabajo y Amistad de todos los que integramos la Comunidad Indigena Ashaninka "Marankiari Bajo", persona juridica con Resolucion de Apoyo Externo No. 473-ORAMS VI-Marzo 1975, Inscrita en el Registro Nacional de Consolidados de Comunidades Nativas Folio No. 111-05.03.75 en la ciudad de Lima, con Registro Unificado de Contribuyentes (R.U.C) No.11118348; Decreto Ley No. 20652; Decreto Ley No. 22175; Resolucion Legislativa No. 26253 Art.5, 7,14, 26; Decreto Ley No. 26505; Constitucion Politica del Peru (Art.1).

"Marankiari Bajo" que en nuestro idioma quiere decir "tierra de las serpientes", es una pequeña comunidad pionera muy antigua antes y despues de 1919, estamos compuestos por 246 familias con una poblacion de 1027 habitantes. Somos uno (1) de las 400 comunidades del Gran Pueblo Indigena Ashaninka, asentados en las tierras altas de la Selva de Junin.



La mayoria de las 400 comunidades Ashaninka estan concentradas y ubicadas en las tierras altas, las tierras intermedias y las tierras bajas de la Amazonia Central del Peru. Los mismos que estan organizados y tienen 14 federaciones politicas representativas de caracter regional para la presencia y defensa de los derechos indigenas ganados y los mismos estan afiliados a la organizacion nacional indigena con nombre AIDESEP.

La "Tierra de las Serpientes" despues de los crueles impactos recibidos e irreversibles estamos trabajando para el fortaleciendo de las iniciativas de las familias Ashaninka para elevar la calidad de vida y en el futuro inmediato lograr el etno-desarrollo integral alternativo practico respondiendo a nuestra realidad y respondiendo a nuestras propias necesidades por iniciativa y unidad de esfuerzos de las familias de nuestra comunidad.

La Comunidad Indigena Ashaninka "Marankiari Bajo" esta ubicado a la margen derecha del caudaloso Rio Perene, clima tropical humedo lluvioso, temperatura entre los 19 a 38 Grados Centigrados de calor, altitud entre los 950 a 1,050 m.s.n.m. Valle de Perene, en el Km. 26 de la Carretera Marginal Central via La Merced a Satipo en la Amazonia Central del Peru a 400 Km. aproximadamente al Este de la ciudad de Lima, a Siete horas aproximadamente en transporte terrestre interprovincial de Lima, es Jurisdiccion del Distrito de Perene, Provincia de Chanchamayo, Departamento de Junin, Sub-Region Selva Central, Region VIII "Andres Avelino Caceres".

Dejamos entendido que estamos en una etapa muy dificil de recomposicion de nuestra sociedad comunal, el fortalecimiento y en vias a la consolidacion de las iniciativas de las familias Ashaninka y por ende la reconstruccion de nuestra sociedad indigena para la sobrevivencia comunal en vias a lograr el etno-desarrollo integral alternativo con respeto, con consulta, con participacion con el fin de ayudarnos entre nosotros mismos a crear nuestra propia ocupacion alternativa de trabajo entre las familias Ashaninka de solidaridad y reciprocidad.

En consecuencia, despues de la violencia social pasada dejandonos en extrema pobreza, miseria y olvido, es ahora precisamente que asumimos el desafio de elevar la calidad de vida y el equilibrio economico familiar con un autentico etno-desarrollo integral alternativo justo, manteniendo la logica de "Enseñar entre nosotros mismos a pescar pero tambien dando la caña de pescar, la cuerda, el anzuelo y la carnada para pescar" y de esta manera podremos pescar en abundancia para garantizar nuestra comida y vivir con dignidad y justicia, es nuestro legitimo derecho como humanos y ciudadanos peruanos.

En virtud a este proceso autentico de autogestion comunal, invitamos a Ud. visitar a nuestra comunidad y nos ayude a consolidar la autogestion comunal en el libre ejercicio de nuestra autonomia indigena, los derechos ganados y la jurisprudencia establecida con mucho respeto y consulta.

Esperamos tomar nota de nuestra nueva sede de coordinacion en Lima y posiblemente podamos contar con su gentil participacion a fin de continuar uniendo esfuerzos para el fortalecimiento y la consolidacion de nuestros pequeños esfuerzos en beneficio de nuestra juventud estudiosa, de las familias y de nuestra sociedad indigena Ashaninka en su conjunto. Reiteramos nuestro cordial saludo hasta muy pronto.


Lic. Oswaldo Rosas Rodriguez - Jefe Ashaninka, Comunidad Indigena Ashaninka
Lic. Mino-Eusebio Castro - Lider Ashaninka, Delegado Oficial Asuntos Indigenas De Nivel Internacional
Tec. Lucia N. De Velazco -Comision, Asuntos Mujer Ashaninka
CC.NN."Marankiari Bajo" - Rio Perene
Amazonia Central Del Peru

Lic. Gerardo Castro Manuela - Director,
Ing. H.Raul Arce Santos - Secretario General
Fundacion De Promocion Indigena
"Maninkariite Ashaninka" - Fupima
Amazonia Central Del Peru

Forthcoming Trial of a Macedonian Minority Party in Greece for Public Use of their Mother Tongue

From: Greek Helsinki Monitor & Minority Rights Group - Greece (Greek National Committee of the International Helsinki Federation) P.O. Box 51393, GR-14510 Kifisia, Greece Tel. +30-1-620.01.20; Fax: +30-1-807.57.67; helsinki(at)

The cooperating organizations, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group - Greece, appeal to the international community, to concerned individuals but especially to governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as to the media to publicly protest against the - outrageous for a democratic country- forthcoming trial of Vasilis Romas, Costas Tasopoulos, Petros Vasiliadis, and Pavlos Voskopoulos, in their capacity as leaders of "Rainbow" - the Macedonian minority party in Greece- for public use of their mother tongue. These protests may take the form of statements and/or letters to the Prime Minister of Greece and/or the Greek Embassies in the various countries. They also appeal to these institutions to send monitors to that trial, to be held on 14/10/1997, in Florina (Northern Greece). The International Helsinki Federation has decided to send a large, multinational monitoring team. Please send copies of such statements or letters to our organizations (see address above).

It is noteworthy that the witnesses of the prosecution include the local leaders of all five main Greek parties at the time (PASOK, ND, Political Spring, KKE, and Coalition); as well as leaders of professional associations (lawyers, merchants, priests, taxi drivers). Most of them, in their pre-trial depositions characterize the defendants as "paid agents of Skopjan propaganda", "anti-Greeks", etc. Follow: a summary of the September 1995 events; complete translations of the indictment and of the allegedly violated article of the penal code; and the list of witnesses for the prosecution.

The events of September 1995

Rainbow opened an office on 6/9/1995 in Florina, with a sign mentioning "Rainbow - Florina Committee" in both Greek and Macedonian. On the evening and night of 13 (and early hours of 14) /9/1995, the office was attacked and eventually sacked by a ‘mob’, led by the mayor of Florina. Before the sacking, police acting on the prosecutor’s order removed the sign, while the prosecutor announced the indictment of the Rainbow leaders for having incited discord among citizens through the use of the Macedonian language in their sign. No political party, nor any media condemned the sacking of the party offices. On the contrary it was praised by extreme right nationalistic papers like Stohos and Chrysi Avghi, whose members reportedly took part in the sacking. And the use of the bilingual sign was condemned by all mainstream political parties and other social groups: the local PASOK - socialist governing party - organization even initiated a court procedure, later withdrawn as it appeared that many signatures on it had been put without the knowledge of those concerned.

Indictment for the trial at the Single-Member Misdemeanor Court of Florina on October 14, 1997

"Vasilis Romas, Costas Tasopoulos, Petros Vasiliadis, and Pavlos Voskopoulos are responsible for, having acted jointly and in public, in any way having caused and incited mutual hatred among the citizens, so that common peace was disturbed on September 6, 1995 in Florina. Specifically, in the aforementioned place and time, as legally representing the party with the name "Rainbow" ("Ouranio Toxo"), the four defendants hanged a sign in that party’s office - in N. Hasou and St. Dragoumi streets. Among other words written therein, there were the words "Lerinski Komitet" written in a Slavic linguistic idiom. These words, in combination with the fact that they were written in a foreign language, in the specific Slavic linguistic idiom, provoked and incited discord among the area’s citizens. The latter justifiably, besides other things, identify these words with an old terrorist organization of Slavic-speaking alien nationals which was active in the area and which, with genocide crimes, pillages and depredations against the indigenous Greek population, attempted the annihilation of the Greek element and the annexation of the greater area of the age-long Greek Macedonia to a neighboring country, which at the time was Greece’s enemy."

Witnesses for the prosecution

N. Batsilas, policeman; J. Germanidis, president of the Florina Doctors Association, and elected Florina District Councilman for the political party "New Democracy"; N. Fanouriakis, president of the Florina Merchants’ Association; A. Konstantinidis, lawyer; Th. Passalis, priest-canon of the Florina Diocese; A. Germanidis, Secretary of the Florina District Organization of the political party "Coalition"; T. Kokkos, journalist; D. Liatopoulos, merchant; L. Nalpantidis, president of the commune Aghios Achillios, Florina; C. Zaravelis, president of the "Radiotaxi" Association; J. Novas, merchant; G. Moulis, representative of the Florina District Organization of the political party "Communist Party of Greece - KKE"; F. Kolettis, President of the Florina District Organization of the political party "New Democracy"; D. Tserkezos, Secretary General of the "National Organization of Macedonian Fighters of the Florina District"; E. Mavropoulos, representative of the Florina District Organization of the political party "Political Spring"; M. Tsotskos, Secretary of the Florina District Organization of the political party "PASOK". Moreover, the prosecution added in the trial file public statements denouncing the bilingual sign, issued in September 1995 by the Florina Bar Association, and by the General Meeting of the Florina Diocese Priests.

Allegedly violated Article 192 of the penal code

"One who publicly and by any means causes or incites citizens to commit acts of violence upon each other or to disturb the peace through disharmony among them shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years unless a greater punishment is imposed by another provision."

Minority languages against Le Front National in France

On 11 October, Luistxo ta Marije wrote to endangered-languages-l, forwarding a message from an Occitan friend, Gianni Vacca.

My friends,

We are now witnessing two serious political phenomena.

- The first is the phenomenon of increased cultural aspirations by the Occitans and, more generally, by all the marginalised cultures of France, a phenomenon in the sense of an opening to the wide world and an increased awareness of all these rich cultures.

- The second is the growth of a party capitalising on hate, nationalism and centralism, the National Front (le Front National), ready to try anything in order to take over power.

In its opportunistic strategy, the FN tries to take over the aspirations of the minorities, as it has done in the affaire of the name of the Provencal city of Vitrolles.

We believe it is of utmost importance to clearly state our opposition to these attempted take-overs that, similar to the ones under the notorious Vichy regime, can only bring ill to our culture(s). This is all the more important as the Jacobins will not spare this topic when they argue against our rightful aspirations.

To show everyone our opposition to these amalgams, we created a collective called "Collective for the Future of all Languages in France", whose tasks shall be:

1) a links campaign on the web, like the "Blue Ribbon" campaign, in order to put in close relationship all the sites administred by like-minded individuals subscribing to our call.
2) a campaign of letters to the press and to our deputies to have our position known and publicised.

A web site is at your disposal:
with a declaration which is at the centre of this call, at the following page:

Although this idea was born out of an Occitan grouping, we are addressing all of the minorities in France, and we have already contacted people from other minorities (especially Bretons).

The situation is serious -- we are waiting for your support.

For the Collective, Gianni Vacca

* Luistxo Fernandez * Marije Manterola
txoko(at) * geonative(at)
* GeoNative *
Hizkuntza gutxiagotuak mapetan - Put minority languages on the map!
maite ditut maite gure bazterrak lanbroak izkutatzen dizkidanean