The Culture & Art of Language — Native American Style

Good Day to you all !

It occurs to me that we are probably each and everyone of us in love with language.  We read, we write, we struggle with that sentence, that paragraph, that scene.  We listen to the words of others, we imitate their speech sounds and imitate dialects, we write them, we say them, we put poetry together so that it moves the spirit of us and our fellow man.  The art of language.  Candidates hope we’ll listen to their smooth talk and not bother to study their voting records too carefully.  Propagandists bank on the fact that we’ll listen and not look — and many of us fall prey to this kind of deceit.  Why?  I think it’s call the art of language.

Gee, I sure do like this the looks of this man.  Sigh.  Okay, enough of that.  In the mid-1800’s, Indian agents began the start of separating Indian children from their parents and taking them far away to the white man’s school.  This was considered by the “do-gooders” (as they are sometimes affectionately referred to in Native America) as beneficial.

But was it?

Let’s have a closer look.  Many of those children had never known the inside of 4 walls.  They were used to the outdoors life, and they were isolated from their families as well (and to many of them, their families were who they were); they were forbidden to speak their language.  They were taught skills that would not equip them to perform well back on the “rez” where they would eventually wind up.  It was thought that they could be made over into the image of the white man — and that this would be beneficial for all concerned.

Many of those children committed suicide.  Some simply faded away or became sick with the startling difference in food, culture, clothing and way of life.   Some  learned as well as they could, only to return to their reservations ill-equipped to meet the challenges that would face them there.  None ever — not ever — forgot their true heritage.  Never.  And when times became more tolerant, these people quickly reverted to their roots, as best they could remember them.

One might think that simply forbidding a child to speak his native tongue, and forcing him to learn another language could hardly qualify as abuse.  But stay with me here.  Let’s look at this more closely.

In Native America, and perhaps in most other cultures, one’s morals and indeed ones idea of what is considered expected of him in the society in which he lives, is conveyed through one’s language.  Let me give some examples here to make this a little more real.  In Native America, there were no such things as curse words.  The name of the Creator, and all concerning that aspect of life was considered so sacred that the very idea of taking the name in vein was entirely foreign.  The way in which one addressed his brothers, sisters, his relatives, his uncles and aunts was all part of the language and gave these kinds of stable datums to children from the very beginning of their life.  The making of clothes, the industry of the women, the differences between the sexes, the way in which one treated one’s mother-in-law or father-in-law, was all part of the language.  If one were to strip one of his right to speak his own tongue, one would also, at the same time, strip one of the moral fiber of the community.

In many ways, taking away the language of the people was as harmful to the First Americans as was the fire-water (and other drugs) brought in by the traders.  It pulled the rug out from underneath the child, replacing it with a different set of values that had little to stabilize them, since most of these children would be returning to their reservation and would not be staying in the white man’s world where the new morals would apply.  Thus, a man would come back to the reservation unable to hunt and fish and make a living for his family.  His family would starve.  A woman would come back not able to cook over a fire or to make the kinds of clothes she was taught to sew in the white man’s school.  Often she was taught to sew on a sewing machine, and there would be none of those on the reservation.

It was a hard time for those children — not only leaving their families, but also in returning to a world that seemed now foreign to them.  Some couldn’t make the change.  But what I find interesting is how the language was used to destroy a culture.  Language.  More examples:  We can often “know” a person by the way they speak (or so we think).  We listen to the slow drawl of a Texan and some of us sigh.  We listen to the fast-paced jargon of a New Englander and our heads might spin just trying to keep up with all they’re saying.  Or how about the Saturday Night Live version of a Samurai in the roll of a food server?  Just the imitation of the speech patterns of the Samurai, combined with the outrageousness of a restaurant setting was enough to set me to laughing.

Language.  It can make us laugh, it can make us cry, it can bring us to our knees.  It can soothe, it can enlighten, it can raise our spirits with the beauty of its prose.  It can also unfortunately be used by those of devious dispostions to hypotnize.  And it can also convey and keep alive simply by its use and its structure, an entire culture.

So tell me what are your thoughts about all this?  I do know that I have been told by more than one Native American elder of the importance of language — and how it alone might keep alive a culture.  What do you think?  Can language do all this?  Can language take us to places we’ve never seen, soothe our spirits, become our friend?  I know I’m talking to many writers here, so please come on in and let me know what you think.

And May your day be filled with love and happiness.

 

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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60 thoughts on “The Culture & Art of Language — Native American Style”

  1. Beautiful thoughts, Karen. When I was growing up in southern Utah, I went to school with Navajo children who were in the kind of program you describe. Some of them lived with families. Later most lived in a dormitory that was built. They were beautiful youngsters and I can just imagine now how they must have missed their homes and families. Many of them were talented artists who drew and painted pictures of their homelands. They were quiet and only spoke English when they had to, but they would chatter to each other in Navajo. So glad those sad times ended but I sometimes wonder what happened to these students.

  2. Good morning, Karen!

    What an interesting perspective you’re giving us today. I’ve had little experience with the NA language, but I grew up hearing my grandparents speak Italian. They spoke it between themselves when the family was together–and I suspect quite often when they were alone. Since they were both immigrants, I’m sure it was terribly important to cling to this part of their past.

    Sadly, their children never learned the language. My dad can speak a few words and probably understand a little more, but that’s it. Many, many times I’d wished someone had taken the time to teach us Italian. What a special part of our lives that would be!

  3. Hi Elizabeth!

    Interesting perspective you talk about. The Crow and the Navajo are amongst those tribes that have really kept their language alive. On both of these reservations (of course the Navajo has more than 1) English is a second language. Interesting.

    Thanks for your post.

  4. Oh, Pam, I know how you feel. I would love to be able to speak another language — Italian or Spanish, perhaps.

    I think of Europeans who speak so many different languages and often wish I knew more than one.

    Thanks Pam.

  5. First of all, The last warrior is an excellent book! I loved it! 🙂

    Second, a language does shape a culture. I took a class on the History of the English Language and I learned so much not just how a word can be used but how they would claim family. Some people in norway and sweden, their sons would go by Johnson cause they were John’s son. lol Still not sure what they did for the girls. lol

    Language does take you to new places or your favorite ones time and time again.

  6. Hi Krista!

    Thanks for your comment. Wow, and thank you for your compliment on THE LAST WARRIOR. Makes my heart gladden.

    I think you’re right about language shaping a culture. I think it can be used, however, for bad as well as for good. Words, language, redefining words so that they no longer mean what even the dictionary says — can reduce one’s ability to think logically.

    I love language — I love reading — I’m rarely without a book I’m reading. But I’m also aware of the use of language — particularly by professional politicians (as different from statesmen) who more and more don’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong.

    My 2 cents.

  7. Language is so important, Karen. Most notably in the culture you describe. And since we’re writers and readers here, we totally understand how words can evoke emotions and nuances and beliefs.

    Very thought-provoking post!

  8. Oh, Language is so important. I taught English for a bazillion years and thought I knew most everything– now thanks to editors, I realize I don’t LOL.

    I am a bit troubled by the coarsening of our every-day language. Words unheard of in my childhood are now commonplace even on TV…and I really resent “Jesus Christ” being used as a curse word. No other religious figure is so abused. Sigh.

    I just read a lovely HQN Western (author will remain nameless) that had to toss in the f-word. Sigh again. I could have done without it..but then, maybe I’m an old fogey.

    The genocide against Native Americans, the systematic destruction of their cultures so broke my heart that it was an important theme when I developed my American Literature curriculum when I taught high school juniors.

    Oh, my. How I do run on. Another great post, Kay. Thank you!!! And thanks once again for Adam. SIGH.

  9. Good morning, Kay – I hear you on the culture issue toward the Native Americans because we had the same happen here with not only our First Nations but to the Inuit (improperly called Eskimos) as well.

    If you follow anything Canadian, you probably know that the language issue is a big deal up here – especially if you’re in the eastern part of the country. Canada has 2 official languages – English and French. Anything imported will have a bilingual sticker applied so anyone in the country can read it, regardless.

    Out here in the west, it’s rare to hear French although the town I live in has a French name – Montmartre – pronounced mo-mar-trey. Most of the people aged 40+ have french accents and have french names like Maurice but thy pronounce it like Morris. No one seems to speak French here. We’ve lived here 10 yrs and it’s still a quandry.

    I was stationed in Ottawa along the Quebec border where everyone spoke either language or a mixture of both. So, when I see Maurice, I call him More-eece as the French do (he has an accent) but people listening say, ‘Why do you call him that?’

  10. Hi Kay,

    This is so true. Language is the root of society no matter what one speaks. It’s devastating and sad when a language dies. Recently on our local news station they told about the Wichita Indians who settled this part of the country and how only one woman is left who can speak the language. And she’s in her 80’s. She’s trying to preserve the language by writing it down and leaving recordings of what the Wichitan language sounds like for future reference. That way, people of the culture at least has some idea of how to speak it should they ever want to. It’s really a shame that the young people don’t want to preserve their history and keep it alive.

    Great post!

  11. Hi Karen I know this may be a little off topic in a way but i’ve had several experiences with my daughters friends where they actually will tell me things they wouldn’t tell their parents because of my laungauge toward them as in talking to them and with them and not at them, it opens up a door to being open for conversation It also gives you the opportunity to slip in things that are really important that others may not get a chance to say because the launguage door has been closed. I’ve been accused by my husband that i’m to much a friend and not enough mother and maybe so in one way but it has also gained me access to knowing what’s going on in my childs life and their friends as well. I’ve been able to help a few of my oldest daughters friends in bad situations like as cutting her arm and legs with a razor I was able to talk to her about it and i felt like she appreciated me caring enough to talk to her and another that was smoking pot so i think laungauage is a asset to be used in ways that can help people and make their life better.
    Reading is a wonderful form of launguage and i loved to be transported to another place outside of my real life.
    Launguage is also used in a destuctive form as well to tear people down which happens more than people think. Wonderful post as always Love Ya 🙂

  12. My siblings and I experienced a similar situation
    as children. My paternal grandfather insisted that we speak only Spanish. Mother insisted that since we were American-born, our first language should be English. We would be taught in English in school. She had seen so many children having difficulties and didn’t want us going through the same problems. We did learn Spanish eventually but had a much more enjoyable time in school! P.S. Love that picture of Adam!!

    Pat Cochran

  13. Karen,
    Please don’t hate me, but I’ve selected your post as a recipient for a blog peer award. Now all you need to do is visit my blog and collect the jpeg of the award, post it, then nominate up to seven sites that are your favorite. Notify the nominees that they must do the same in turn. You can see what I’ve done on my blog when someone nominated me. I hope you’ll continue the game. The purpose, I’m sure is to get people moving around to discover more interesting places to visit. This is one of my very favorites. Again:

    After receiving the award we must:

    1) Add the logo of your award to your blog.
    2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
    3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
    4) Add links to those blogs on your blog.
    5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

    http://mizging.blogspot.com

  14. Hi Kate!

    Yes, language is so important. I believe that history records that one of the reasons Webster wrote his distionary was to keep words from being twisted in meaning. Don’t know if this is really true. But it would make sense.

    Thanks Kate!

  15. Hi Tanya!

    Thanks so much for adding your enlightenment to this post. Language is important — I guess until the elders mentioned it to me, I hadn’t realized exactly how important it is.

    History is interesting to read — it also is important so that we can see what caused what — otherwise we will be doomed to commit the same mistakes over and over.

    Thanks for your insights.

  16. Hi Anita Mae!

    I had no idea about the French and English combinations — I used to live in Vermont and so lived close to Montreal and I well remember going to Montreal and having to get along reading French on their roads — amazingly, I got along.

    Yes, language is important to preserve.

  17. Thank you so much for your thoughts, Linda. It is sad when the one who still speaks the language is so old that it might die with her.

    In this modern world where forces are at work to classify us and dissect us and make us think that we are all the same, all I can say is viva la difference. : )

  18. Hi Lori!

    So nice to see you here. I miss your wonderful emails. Must admit that I have had much the same view as you do. When my kids were very young, I took a look at it to try to decide what I wanted most out of the mother/daughter relationship and I realized that what I wanted most of all was forever friendship, which I really do have now.

    Like you, most of their friends could talk to me and most importantly to me, my own kids could tell me anything, which I think helped to keep them on “the straight and narrow.”

    There’s so much to lure a child — one must keep in good communication, for their own sake.

    Great ideas.

  19. The tradition of passing your language and customs on to your children is the big issue we are facing in Canada. It stems from the French people of Quebec worried that their children will forget their heritage and embrace the English language. If they embrace the English language, they’ll adopt new customs and traditions as well.

    This loss of heritage is why the rest of the world sometimes hears news reports of Canada breaking up and Quebec separating. The French traditionalists feel this is the only way to preserve their heritage. They’d rather split and live as their own country than lose their heritage.

    Good thing this isn’t a crisis any longer and we seem to have settled things. Part of this is allowing Quebec to have French signs. Of course, English speaking storekeepers have a problem with this especially in the more predominantely English communities. All Quebec is not French speaking although the English speakers are certainly outnumbered.

    In today’s world with the cell phones and computers, it seems we are heading toward a universal language. I believe the only way we can maintain our cultural diversity is to give our children pride in their own heritage so they’ll want to embrace and continue the tradition. That’s the real legacy we’ll leave them.

  20. Hi Pat!

    You know, I envy your being able to speak another language besides English. And isn’t that a great picture of Adam? I so love it!

    Thanks for your thoughts, Pat!

  21. Oh, yes. Language is important. It reflects the way the people who speak the language think. And gee, how difficult translating some languages can be, if they are very different from your own mother tongue. English certainly has it’s own quirks, but it’s nothing compared to Japanese.

    And there is nothing new under the sun: most of the time when there are news about Finno-Ugric peoples who live in Russia, it’s hardly ever anything good. And quite a few of those Finno-Ugric languages are either dead or dying.

  22. Ah, Anita, these are really important points. I didn’t know that this was the reason also there were French signs all over Montreal. I enjoyed them because it was so different.

    Yes, culture, beliefs, ethics, morals are all carried on language and the way one speaks. It’s something we don’t often think about, but it is very important.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Anita!

  23. Wow! Ginger, this is wonderful! Thank you so much! I so seldomly get awards. This is wonderful.

    Let me see if I can figure this out. I’m not particularly computer-lit so it sounds simple, but when I’m doing it… : )

    Thanks Ginger!

  24. My sister worked for Wycliff Bible Translaters for a year, in Ghana, West Africa.
    Because of all the mistakes that were made in the treatment of American native people, Wycliff made a commitment to translating the Bible into the native language of all the language groups on the earth.

    This is a fascinating and staggering objective. They decided that presenting the Bible to these language groups in English or some other more widespread language, then insisting that language group (or ‘tribe’ you might say) learn that more common language was harmful to the tribe they approached. So, by showing respect for the native language and culture, they could reach these people with God’s Word more successfully without some of the harm done to American Indians.

    So, when my sister was there, she worked with two women who’d been in this ‘tribe’ for 25 years.

    that’s because they began with a group had no written language. The Wycliff translators had to first learn the language themselves, then write it down, then teach the group to read their own language, then begin translating the Bible into that language. There was no shortcut that Wycliff felt fully respected their culture.

    Wycliff is doing this with language groups world-wide. The most extreme example of the scope of this project is in Papua, New Guinea, with 6 million people and 850 languages. Because of the rugged land, the tribes remain very isolated and each have their own languages.

  25. The enormity of this project-I’ll give you an example. My sister talked about one — I believe it was an asian language. The translators were trying to define the word God for their Bible. But, the word God was widely used in their poly-theistic culture. That means lots of gods. God of Rain, Sun God, God of — whatever.

    So they tried to define the Christian God is such a way that the language group would understand that, to a Bible believer there was only one true God. So they translated it to say God of everything, or maybe God of the whole universe. but the word they used meant to that language group something like Sky God, which was a god they already had and it wasn’t a particularly powerful God. It took the translators YEARS to figure out that they had used for their Bible a minor god to these people.

    So 25 years working on these translations is veyr common.

    In Ghana, where my sister lived, the language of business was French and most people spoke it and read it a bit, but Wycliff didn’t use French translations for the Bible, because of their committment to respecting native cultures. This group has done a huge job of recording and preserving unwritten languages.

    Here’s a few words from their website.

    Today about 200 million people do not have the Bible in their own language. Wycliffe’s vision is to see the Bible accessible to all people in the language they understand best. To make this vision a reality, Wycliffe also focuses on literacy development, community development and church partnerships.

  26. Mary,

    This is incredible. And it is so good. Brings tears to my eyes. In this modern world where I sometimes wonder just how “good” our modern world it, this is like breath of bresh air. : )

    Thanks for your enlightenment. : )

  27. Again, Mary, I’m awed by the time and trouble that they are taking to bring this to others.

    Wow. Thanks for this information. It goes straight to the heart.

  28. Minna,

    Somehow I missed your first post. That’s interesting about the Russian people. There are languages that are dying there?

    This breaks my heart. All these things are so important. We are not all the same, we are all individuals and our cultures often mirror these values that we hold dear to our heart.

    What a boring world this would be if we were all the same. Thanks for your thoughts.

  29. Minna – I was hoping you’d speak of the Finnish issue of the ‘Swedish invasion’. My Finn relatives speak of losing their heritage to a new culture made from melding the Swede and Finn traditions together.

    I’ve never heard the term Finno-Ugric although Russia conscripted Finns like my grandfather to fight in WW1.

  30. Anita, thanks for your thoughts on this, too. I hope that Mina is still going to be coming back and tell us a little more about this.

    I do know that Stalin killed over 60 million of his own Russian people during and after WWII. Were these people a part of that genocide?

    Why the Western World was ever friends with this man is beyond my understanding. As far as I know it (from history), many of those Russian people were killed at point blank range.

    Do you know if this was a part of the Russian army that carried out these assignments or was it some other foreign force?

  31. One of the challenges to Wycliff is closed societies like China, where they aren’t allowed in. Don’t you suppose China has tribal languages, too? Maybe not. I’m not sure if anyone really knows because of how difficult it is to get into many parts of China.

    Finno-Ugric…….that is so interesting.

    And of course, have you ever talked about Navaho Code Talkers? Karen? I saw that movie about them a few years back but it’s an amazing story.

    And, interesting fact, many, many, many native children are still sent to boarding school. Did you know that Karen? I’d say about 80 children are sent out of the small town where I work, as young as first grade, and they don’t come home until Christmas, and then Summer. It’s voluntary but it is still pretty widespread. I talked to a man who runs one of those schools.
    Flandreau in South Dakota. http://www.fis.bia.edu/

  32. Sorry Kay, I don’t know any more about it. I just know that my grandfather was conscripted but refused to fight as he didn’t believe in whatever cause they were fighting. Because he refused, he was sent to a Russion mental instituion at the age of 17yrs. They released him 4 yrs later. I have a photo taken of him at 22 yrs old – he looks at least 40. My young grandmother is 18 yrs in the photo and Papa looks like her father.

    Mary – I believe the same is still happening here too, in the smaller northern communities where they say the pop is too small to build a school.

  33. It’s not just Russian people in Russia. There are plenty of peoples who don’t consider themselves as Russian. There was once this documentary about a man who had managed to escape from Russia to Finland. I don’t remember to which Finno-Ugric group he belonged, but his language was even more closely related to Finnish than Estonian. Anyway, he told how before Communism there had been about 2000 of his people, now only about 200. And he told about his brother, who had been taken to Siberia, and he can only guess what was done to him there.
    I have heard that there are Finns and probably Estonians too who are trying to help other Finno-Ugric peoples to keep their language and culture, but it sounds like quite a strugle, when you here about this stuff about how Russians are trying to do just opposite. So, the languagues are not just dying. They are being killed.

  34. I do know that Stalin killed over 60 million of his own Russian people during and after WWII. Were these people a part of that genocide?

    Yes.

    Why the Western World was ever friends with this man is beyond my understanding. As far as I know it (from history), many of those Russian people were killed at point blank range.

    Because back then you had to choose between two Devils. We Finns had to ask help from Germany, because no one else would come to our aid, everyone else was fighting against Hitler.

    Do you know if this was a part of the Russian army that carried out these assignments or was it some other foreign force?
    Russian army and other Russian authorities, as far as I know.

  35. Hi Karen,
    Very thought provoking post! I love the romance languages and being Italian, I wish I could have learned more from my relatives to pass onto my kids. I understand it pretty well, but there are so many dialects from different regions.

    I know that if I hear a pretty song in another language, it often evokes more emotion in me, so language in song is something that sways us into a mood too.

  36. I have found that when i need to do the mother roll and inforce disiplin it’s hard for my oldest to except but she also knows there’s a reason i’ve chose my decision . Even though people think they have to be strickly a parent for respect and authority reasons their kids listen to them more because they take them more serious but i feel i wouldn’t know my child as well, as well as the friends they have because i would be excluded from that part of their lives because of being afraid of being judged and getting in trouble.
    With the things going on with young people today i think launguage plays a big roll in listening and understanding and also Grandparents being able to lend knowlege of their life and their beliefs they have more to go on than just what the other kids are doing and their way of thinking.

  37. Mary,

    I know that in So. Dakota the children are sent to schools outside of their area, but I didn’t know they were still going to boarding schools. This is news to me.

    Of oourse with TV and other mass media outlets, the culture itself is already under attack, as the children are more interested in what’s on TV than learning about their own culture.

    I bet you’re right about China, Mary. With so many millions of people, how could they not have pockets of separate cultures?

    China is already a button for me. With CAFTA and NAFTA making it impossible for American businesses to profit, they took their businesses out of America, and many went to Communist China — enriching that society, instead of its own.

    I know I’m off subject here now, but China is really a button, as well as those companies who left the US, rather than work to get NAFTA and CAFTA revoked. Anyway…

  38. Anita,

    I only moan when I hear this same thing happening here in this country. I’ve heard talk of it being a “mental illness” to disagree with the government. I hear this and cringe because it is the same sort of propaganda that was put about in Russia.

    Only there people were put in mental institutions instead of being called names as they are here in this country.

    Ah, we do need to know history, lest we keep repeating it.

  39. Thank you, Mina, for enlightening me on this topic. I didn’t know it was more peoples than Russian. And in truth, I didn’t learn about Stalin killing 60 million of his own people in school, but in my own research. Why this isn’t known or emphasized by more historians, I don’t know.

    I did know that Russia was sending its people to mental institutions if they dared to disagree with the government. I only hope this country never comes to this. When I read such documents (bills recently passed) that makes it a “crime” to speak out against government action, I again cringe and I wonder if we are or are not teaching our kids about those things that were done in Russia, as well as Germany.

    Thank you so much for telling us about his.

  40. Oh, Lori, I so agree with you on this. When I was raising my children, I believed that communication was more important than anything else and I kept an open channel with my kids, never punishing them for what they would tell me.

    It really did help me to keep them out of things that would have harmed them.

    I also believe that we should utilize our elders more than we do in this country. In the past, it is the elders who enlighten the next generation. The fact that as a society we put our elders in a home, breaks my heart.

    I have often told me husband and my MIL that is it ever came to it, she would live with us — not a home. It’s just not natural to put our elders in a home, away from the young where they can be so enlightening.

    Again, my 2 cents.

  41. i have always wanted to learn any language, but especailly native amercian
    but i have a speech problem, of not pronoucing my R and some words . so everyone always laughed , so never tried, but im older and NOW am going to try, that at the library , they have tapes and cds, and tv ,teaching langs, and what have i got to lose, lol either i can or cant do it

  42. My husband’s grandmother was, I believe, born in Germany, either that or born very shortly after her parents came here from Germany…I’m kind of guessing here but she was married in about 1900 to my husband’s grandfather Connealy. A very IRISH man.

    So these two huge families, the Badje’s and the Connealys intermarried a couple of times and lived close around, this was back in the days of telephone party lines, if anyone remembers them.

    So the Badje women would talk to each other in German on the party line telephone so no snoopy neighbor could listen in. As I remember it, my grandmother went off to school–in a rural school in Nebraska–having never spoken a word of English.

  43. Isn’t it amazing the things people do and justify it. Language is the common ground amongst all people and without it how can you really know each other! My parents and grandparents spoke Italian and an Italian dialect – unfortunately it wasn’t something they taught the next generation. They say it’s so much easier to learn as a child. I wish I had learned it.

  44. What a great site! I am looking forward to reading through it.

    I love language. I believe it is a tool, and therefore can be used in good and bad ways. It shapes and defines cultures, communities, and families.

  45. Yes! The Cajuns of Louisiana would agree as well. Their language was stripped from them in much the same way.

    So the question that this evolves to….at least in my mind…..is if we think this was wrong, damaging, ect. what do we think of an America who is doing this to her current immigrants?

    In Iowa we have the “English Only” law and enforce it at will. Just a thought.

  46. Hi Tami!

    Thanks so much for coming here today and posting. : ) You know, I would like to learn some Native languages, as well. I know a little Blackfeet and a little Lakota, but not enough to hold a conversation, I think.

    Good luck with learning about this! : )

  47. Hi Mary!

    I remember the old party lines. We had one when I was growing up, but the interesting thing was that people were so polite that it was never a problem with having someone listen in. : )

  48. Hi Jenn,

    Yes, you are so right. Language is the means by which we convey ourselves and make ourselves known. So yes, I can be used for good or for bad. I guess it would be good if we were somewhat educated to be able to recognize the difference. : )

  49. Hi Mama!

    What a good question. I wish I had the answer that you seek. The only thing I can say is that each Nation seems to have a language that is central for that country. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with speaking and learning that language. I think the problem arises when another person tries to enforce (using force) that one CAN’T speak a language, or speak it, or its not allowed to be spoken.

    Freedom is freedom — and that should mean being able to speak a language that one is brought up in. Whether the schools HAVE to teach in different languages is something I don’t know how to answer. Perhaps homeschooling is the answer. But I certainly think it is an area the government has no business being in.

    Hope that helps at least a little.

  50. that is so interesting there was so many bad things that happened back then and now for that matter this world was made for all of us but then we have all different kinds of peole who do each other wrong and think it was made for just one kind which is wrong I love reading about our history to learn of the things that happened back then and waht happens now will be read in the future and it will be history learned and I pray we all have peace

  51. Wow, the power of language. It strikes me too as I read through the comments here about the Russian people since my husband is Russian (he grew up there until he was 15). do you know the Russian people think that it was the Jews that killed all those people? I was trying to look it up, I read about the Bolsheviks killing many in the Revolution, but he was taught that it was the Jewish people who slaughtered the millions of Russians.
    Yes, there is a big variety of people who lived in the Soviet Union, and their language is a big deal to them. Ukrainians get very offended if you refer to them as Russian and the other way around as well! Since my husband is both, he does not care too much!

  52. Excellent post. I seem to remember either reading or hearing that when Kevin Costner did Dances With Wolves, he had to hire someone to teach the Native American actors he hired, to speak Lakota, because the language had become lost over the years, even to them.

    My dad and his family came over from Germany in the thirties and his older brothers were thrown in school and expected to keep up even though they couldn’t speak a word of English. And now there are only a few in my family who speak German.

    It makes me wonder if, as we become not only more of a melting pot country, but a world, and cultures and races combine if we all won’t eventually lose all our individual language and cultures for one complete blend.

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