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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | North Bay / Marin | Racial Justice
Indigenous Languages Conference, “Coming of Age” at the Marin Headlands, Sept 13-15
The 11th Annual Language is Life Conference, “Coming of Age” will be held at the Headlands, September 13-15, 2013. Conference is full but for more information: contact Marina Drummer, AICLS Administrator, 221 Idora Avenue, Vallejo, CA 94591, (707) 486-6806, marina [at] communityfuturescollective.org.
The 11th Annual Language is Life Conference, “Coming of Age”
at the Headlands, September 13-15, 2013
Vallejo, CA. Imagine a world where there are more California native languages spoken than anywhere else in the country, where families can converse in their native tongues, where native language is spoken by young and old, where familiar and revered sacred sites bear the names given them by their traditional native caretakers. This truly was a world that existed long before California did, before the onslaught of genocide and cultural repression that devastated native nations throughout the state.
Today many native tongues have no living speakers, and those that do are often seriously at risk of falling into disuse. But it is also a world that is being reimagined more and more by native peoples, and it is taking form in a growing movement to restore and rebuild the native languages and cultures that have been lost to native communities.
One organization intensely focused on that vision is the Advocates for California Indian Languages, and they have been working to realize that world since their inception 21 years ago. Every other year AICLS has held “Language is Life”, a practical hands on language conference for California native peoples.
The past few decades have seen an incredible resurgence in traditional native cultural practices. Ceremonies, dances, songs, and traditions have been embraced and recognized as the true path for native peoples struggling to find their place in today’s increasingly complex and dysfunctional world.
The “Advocates”, as they call themselves, believe that in this quest for cultural regeneration, language is the key – the key that unlocks a world vision, a connection to their ancestors, and though endangered, is an element of life that is as intrinsic to them as their DNA. They have embraced the daunting task of rebirthing California’s native tongues, and they are accompanied by a dedicated and enthusiastic group of native language advocates.
“The state of the native languages today is phenomenal considering what it was 21 years ago, and AICLS is one of the major players in the work to revitalize Native languages. 21 years of progress, on the other hand, is a far cry from 150 years of linguicide. 21years of progress for the return of these languages does not mean that we can be idle, but it does mean that we finally have a foothold in turning back 150 years of loss.” Julian Lang, Karuk, AICLS Board Member
This year’s conference is bursting at the seams as nearly 250 people will come to the language gathering, more than any past gathering and unfortunately closed to incoming requests to attend. It will be held at the Headlands, so close to San Francisco, but it will feel like a million miles away as native people come together in an isolated and focused retreat to share techniques and learn from one another.
The full conference schedule posted on the AICLS website (http://www.aicls.org) includes such conference highlights as: Reports from California Language Revitalization Programs; Teaching language through puppets; other new teaching methods; Teaching grammar through “talking sticks”; Technology and Language Revitalization; Language revitalization for families; Language learning games; Films; How to find funding; and special youth programs.
In addition to Native culture bearers from across the state and the Advocates dedicated staff and board, conference participants will be ably assisted by linguists. Videographers will also be there to document the important work that is being done, and participants are encouraged to bring language resource materials to share such as workbooks, grammars, dictionaries, CD’s, DVD’s.
While the Advocates are greatly encouraged by the interest expressed in the conference, they are unable to accept one more person for this event. There is a cultural night on Saturday night that is open to the public that promises to be a special night of storytelling and song. That gathering will begin at dusk after dinner around the campfire on campus.
There is a special excitement to the event, because it is so directly connected to the ancestors. The feeling is aptly expressed by the 2011 Language is Life poster quote from Brian Tripp: “I’m alone. But not on my own. I hear their voices. Their faces I cannot see. They have much to talk about. And they want to speak with me.”
For more information or to support the important work of the organization contact Marina Drummer, AICLS Administrator, 221 Idora Avenue, Vallejo, CA 94591, (707) 486-6806, marina [at] communityfuturescollective.org. The 11th Annual Language is Life Conference, “Coming of Age” will be held at the Headlands, September 13-15, 2013.
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