Copyright Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth
Calgary-based Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth seek to empower native youth through activism, advocacy, education and (most interestingly to me as a former Linguistics major) classes in the local native language, Blackfoot.
Like many indigenous languages the world over, Blackfoot has lost speakers through combinations of loss of prestige, cultural genocide, majority language take-over, institutionalized punishment of native languages, etc. Once your only native speakers are elders, as with Blackfoot, your language’s outlook is not looking so good.
So in addition to language classes, USAY also has native cartoonists work with kids to create bilingual comics like the one above, Ak Skim Aan, aka Hunter. Sort of tacky-looking, sure, but it was made by a committee of teens, so cut ’em some slack. The comic was made freely available in Calgary and it’s up in full online too, as is USAY‘s monthly New Tribe Magazine (I have my eye on that walnut pumpkin pie recipe…).
The questions unanswered: What does it mean to be a humanities major getting sad about the death of of language, or the death of a last living speaker? To describe the loss of Marie Smith Jones, the last speaker of Eyak, as “powerful” or “sad” or “eye-opening”? To what extent can linguistic preservation be a form of colonialism itself? What is the deal with The Linguists?
I don’t know. I’m not a linguist.
But I do know that North American White English Speakers talking about their feelings about the “death” of an Indigenous North American Language is kind of imperial. But I also know that this print is pretty neat.
I only discovered this like a month ago but I’m still pretty pissed. I’d never been called an imperialist before, so thanks lady, I’m flattered by your simultaneous lack of expertise in the field and comfort delivering judgement.
On the other hand, she did call my art “pretty neat”, so win some, lose some.