“Reviving a Lost Language Through Film”

“Speaking Haida for the first time in more than 60 years looked painful. Sphenia Jones’s cheeks glistened with sweat, and her eyes clenched shut. She tried again to produce the forgotten raspy echo of the Haida k’, and again she failed. Then she smiled broadly. ‘It feels so good,” Ms. Jones, 73, said. ‘Mainly because I can say it out loud without being afraid.’ Ms. Jones was sent far from home to a residential school to be forcibly assimilated into Western culture. When a teacher caught Ms. Jones learning another indigenous language from two schoolmates, Ms. Jones said, the teacher yanked out three fingernails.” C. Porter, The New York Times

Spehenia Jones, 73, speaking Haida again for the first time since she was a child. NYT

Excerpt: Reviving a Lost Language of Canada Through Film, by Catherine Porter, The New York Times

“It worked: Ms. Jones spoke nothing but English, until recently, when she began learning her lines in the country’s first Haida-language feature film, Edge of the Knife.

With an entirely Haida cast, and a script written in a largely forgotten language, the film reflects a resurgence of indigenous art and culture taking place across Canada. It is spurred in part by efforts at reconciliation for the horrors suffered at those government-funded residential schools, the last of which was closed only in 1996.

Restoring the country’s 60 or so indigenous languages, many on the verge of extinction, is at the center of that reconciliation. The loss of one language, said Wade Davis, a University of British Columbia anthropology professor, is akin to clear-cutting an ‘old-growth forest of the mind.’ The world’s complex web of myths, beliefs and ideas — which Mr. Davis calls the ‘ethnosphere’ — is torn, just as the loss of a species weakens the biosphere, he said. A Haida glossary dedicates three pages to words and expressions for rain.

Tyler York, the lead actor in Edge of the Knife, getting a traditional sea grizzly tattoo on his chest. Credit Ruth Fremson:The New York Times

‘English cannot begin to describe the landscape of Haida Gwaii,’ the Haida homeland, Mr. Davis said. That really is what language is.’ Fewer than 20 fluent speakers of Haida are left in the world, according to local counts. For the Haida themselves, the destruction of their language is profoundly tied to a loss of identity.

‘The secrets of who we are, are wrapped up in our language,’ said Gwaai Edenshaw, a co-director of the film, who like most of the cast and crew grew up learning some Haida in school but spoke English at home.

North Beach on Graham Island, part of the remote archipelago of Haida Gwaii off British Columbia’s coast. Credit-Ruth Fremson:The New York Times

Mr. Edenshaw was a co-writer of the script for the 1.8 million Canadian dollar ($1.3 million) film, which is set in Haida Gwaii — an archipelago of forested islands off the west coast of Canada — during the 1800s. It tells an iconic Haida story of the ‘wildman,’ a man who is lost and becomes feral living in the forest. In this version, the wildman loses his mind after the death of a child, and is forcibly returned to the fold of his community in a healing ceremony.

Yan, an ancient Haida village in Haida Gwaii with a replica long house and totem pole, will be the location for filming “Edge of the Knife. CreditRuth Fremson:The New York Times

The film would seem cripplingly ambitious if not for the record of the executive producer, the Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk.  He made his name with  Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) which depicted an Inuit folk epic and starred untrained Inuit actors speaking their traditional language, Inuktitut.That film won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001, and is still considered one of the best Canadian films of all time. Local builders constructed a long house on the site of an old traditional village where the film [Edge of the Knife] is being shot.

Vern Williams sang traditional songs in the long house as the actors finished rehearsing. CreditRuth Fremson:The New York Times

A local musician, Vern Williams, was hired to create songs for the film. During the evenings of the language camp, he pulled out his guujaaw — drum — and filled the long house with his low, mournful voice.  Mr. Williams, 58, spent seven terrible years in a residential school.‘I don’t call this reconciliation,’ he said. ‘Something was taken. We are taking it back.’ A Haida artist tattooed clan crests on the chests and arms of willing actors in the traditional stick-and-poke fashion.

After a long day of stumbling over pronunciation, Mr. Russ, one of the actors, sat by the wood stove with his script open on his lap, enjoying Mr. Williams’s music for a moment. He had circled every line he found difficult, which were all 37.

His relaxation did not last long. ‘I’m starting to feel overwhelmed,’ he said, heading outside to practice.Two weeks was not enough to learn pronunciation, let alone memorize his lines. Then, he had to learn how to act.”

Category: Films

Film Moana to be Dubbed by Māori Natives!

“The call has gone out from The Walt Disney Animation Studios and Matewa Media who are searching for our very own Māori Moana as the movie is set to be dubbed in te reo Māori.” T. Koti, Māori Online News

Excerpt: Are you the Māori Moana? By  Tepara Koti, Māori Online News

“The Academy Award nominated animated feature Moana has particularly resonated with Māori and Pacific Island viewers who will no doubt be excited with the news.  The recording process will take place over the next few months with actors Rachel House (“Gramma Tala”), Temuera Morrison (“Chief Tui”), Jemaine Clement (“Tamatoa”) and Oscar Kightley (“Fisherman”) reprising their roles.

Te Whānau-a-Apanui’s Rob Ruha, a multi-award-winning composer and solo artist, has joined the team as both Musical Director and as an integral part of the translation/adaptation team. Release details are to be announced, with the goal to have the film shared both in festivals and on DVD for educational purposes in Aotearoa and beyond.

‘It’s been a big dream of mine to see mainstream movies translated into te reo Māori,’ says Waititi [director Taika Watiti].

‘For indigenous audiences to hear films in their own language is a huge deal, helping to normalize the native voice and give a sense of identification. It also encourages our youth to continue with their love and learning of the language, letting them know their culture has a place in the world.’

Note: Mauri Ora! We are on the search for our very own Māori speaking Moana. Auditions are due by June 15 so kia tere!

Casting information can be found on the Adrenaline Group website.

Category: Films

Replica of Native Execution Device Is Not Art!

“The Walker Art Center has postponed the opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden until 10 June following protests from Native American groups surrounding a work by the artist Sam Durant that references US state-sanctioned hangings. Among the historic gallows recreated in Durant’s wooden sculpture Scaffold (2012) is one used in 1862 to hang 38 Dakota men executed by the US Army in Mankato, Minnesota.” H. Stoilas, The Art Newspaper

Durant’s recreation of hanging scaffold used on Natives in 1862.

Excerpt: Walker Art Center postpones opening of sculpture park after Native American protests

“The work will probably be dismantled after a meeting between the artist, the museum and Dakota elders on Wednesday. Announced in January 2016 as one of the 16 new works acquired for the park’s reopening this June, Scaffold was originally commissioned and shown at Documenta in Kassel in 2012.

Photo- MPR news

[according to a  press release statement] ‘With the death penalty as its focus, Scaffold opens a discussion around criminal law and the politics of incarceration—themes which continue to resonate today.’

On Thursday 25 May, the Walker’s director Olga Viso wrote about the new acquisitions, including Scaffold on a blog post on the museum’s website. This prompted an outcry from Minnesota’s Native American community, over its use of a traumatic symbol of brutality against the Dakota people, the museum’s failure to consult tribal leaders in its acquisition and installation, and the fact that the work was made by a white artist.

Protest signs against scaffold. photo- The Art Newspaper

Signs posted on the fence surrounding the park said ‘Not your story’ and ‘$200 for scalp of artist’.  Both Durant and Viso released statements apologizing for the hurt caused to the community and offering the dismantle the piece.

MinnPost

‘It has been my belief that white artists need to address issues of white supremacy and its institutional manifestations. Whites created the concept of race and have used it to maintain dominance for centuries, whites must be involved in its dismantling,’ Durant said. ‘However, your protests have shown me that I made a grave miscalculation in how my work can be received by those in a particular community.’ Viso said: ‘As director of the Walker, I regret that I did not better anticipate how the work would be received in Minnesota, especially by Native audiences.”

Category: Social

Buffy Sainte-Marie and Inuk Throat Singer Tanya Tagaq Deliver New Song

“Two powerhouses of Canada’s indigenous music scene have lifted the curtain on a new collaboration.Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq paired for the track ‘You Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind)’…Sainte-Marie wrote the song about Alaskan dog sled racer George Attla who placed fourth in the inaugural Iditarod in 1973.” Canadian Press

St. Marie (l) and Tagaq (r)

 

Excerpt:  Buffy Sainte-Marie delivers new song collaboration with Tanya Tagaq

“The singers joined together as part of a series of collaborations organized by the brain trust behind the Polaris Music Prize. Both Sainte-Marie and Tagaq are former Polaris winners. Sainte-Marie grabbed the 2015 award for ‘Power in the Blood’ while *throat singer Tagaq’s album ‘Animism’ won a year earlier.

Buffy St. Marie

Tanya Tagaq

Tagaq says the song’s theme suggests ‘you can’t let things bring you down,’ which she says could also be interpreted as an anti-suicide message. Canada’s indigenous communities have been wracked by youth suicides amid calls for action to address the crisis.”

*Inuit throat singing, or katajjaq, is a form of musical performance uniquely found among the Inuit. (An analogous form called rekuhkara was once practiced among the Ainu of Hokkaidō, Japan.) The Inuit performers are traditionally women who sing only duets in a kind of entertaining contest to see who can outlast the other, although one of the genre’s most famous performers, Tanya Tagaq, performs as a solo artist. Several groups, including Tudjaat, The Jerry Cans, Quantum Tangle and Silla + Rise, also blend traditional throat singing with mainstream musical genres such as pop, folk and dance music. -Wikipedia-

To the Men and Women: Memorial Day May 29 2017

Category: Culture

Native Author Joy Harjo Wins The Prize…Again!

“Today, we are excited to announce Joy Harjo has been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement and contribution to the art of poetry. Of Harjo’s poetry, Don Share remarks: “Her work is a thrilling and necessary antidote to false news, the ephemera of digital celebrity, and other derelictions. It pushes vigorously back against forgetfulness, injustice, and negligence at every level of contemporary life. ” H. Staff, Poetry Foundation

Joy Harjo

Excerpt: Joy Harjo Awarded 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, by Harriet Staff, The Poetry Foundation

“Presented annually to a living US poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant singular recognition, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets. At $100,000, it is also one of the nation’s largest literary prizes. Established in 1986, the prize is sponsored and administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It will be presented at a ceremony at the Poetry Foundation on Monday, June 12th.

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop…Her work draws on Native American storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Harjo’s many honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. Harjo is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.”

One of Harjo’s best known and loved poems She Had Some Horses was first published in 1983 and is now considered a classic.

She Had Some Horses By Joy Harjo

She had some horses.

She had horses who were bodies of sand.

She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.

She had horses who were skins of ocean water.

She had horses who were the blue air of the sky.

She had horses who were fur and teeth.

She had horses who were clay and would break.

She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

lenzor

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.

She had horses with full, brown thighs.

She had horses who laughed too much.

She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.

She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.

She had horses who thought they were the sun and their

bodies shown and burned like stars.

She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.

She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet

in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.

She had horses who cried in their beer.

She had horses who spit at male queens who made

them afraid of themselves.

She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.

She had horses who lied.

She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped

bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse.”

She had horses who called themselves, “spirit,” and kept

their voices secret and to themselves.

She had horses who had no names.

She had horses who had books of names.

Animal digestion

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.

She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who

carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.

She had horses who waited for destruction.

She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.

She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.

She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her

bed at night and prayed.

She had some horses

She had some horses she loved.

She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.

Category: Culture

Native Super Moms!

“Among the many tribes of Native Americans throughout North America there were many different roles for the Native American women. The roles of many Native American women were very important to every Indian tribe.” Native Net

‘Super Native Woman’ design by Jared Yazzie and OXDX Clothing

Excerpt: Native American Women, Native Net

“Women are important to any society since they are the bearers of children, but to Native American tribes the women had many other very important responsibilities.

Native women cooking on open fire

Among some American Indian tribes the women would make many of the weapons that were used for hunting and war, and also built the homes they lived in, gathered firewood, as well as herbs for medicine, and nuts and berries for food.

Native arts

Native American women are the ones that made the crafts that have become very popular forms of art worldwide. Some of the crafts they are known most for are the hand woven and quilted blankets, colorful beaded necklaces, handmade and painted pottery.

Native American Women Warriors

No matter what tribe you are referring to, the women were always very important and had many different roles for the survival of the tribe.”

 

Yakama Native American Mother and Child


Category: Social