Talking Back, with Reawakened Voices: Analyzing the Potential for Indigenous California Languages Coursework at California Polytechnic State University
College of Liberal Arts
Ethnic Studies Department
BA in Comparative Ethnic Studies
Grace Yeh, Jenell Navarro
The legacy of colonialism in the United States, including genocidal practices and cultural assimilation, has left Indigenous languages endangered. Native peoples, scholars, and activists have been working to revive and heal the languages of America’s first peoples, and the cultures those languages speak to, yet more work remains in the field of language revitalization. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo currently does not offer any course specifically teaching or discussing Indigenous languages, even those of the Chumash people who know the San Luis Obispo area as their ancestral homelands.
By synthesizing revitalization and Indigenous activist literature with the narratives of Native language experts, the project proposes Native language education coursework for California Polytechnic State University to implement. Insight provided through interviews with these experts indicates that the languages themselves speak against colonialism and assimilation, and provide us with knowledge and understandings of our worlds and cultures beyond what can be conceived of though European languages. While there is no one educational strategy to fit every community, Indigenous language education serves in healing some of the damage done by colonizing practices on Native peoples, and helps reverse the history the education system has had in silencing Native voices. For non-Native students, this enhances a multicultural and social justice education by de-Eurocentrizing the curriculum and introducing worldviews that are too often unheard.
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