Language Revival and Revival

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The persecution and revival of Native American langages

The persecution and revival of Native American langages and cultureWilliam SimmonsHIS 206Professor Howard10 May 2015Historical background of Amerindian languagesRehling writes that before European contact, there were at least 250 different languages spoken in North America, and that may have thousands of those Amerindian langauges (Rehling, n.d.).Rehling also mentions that nearly 90% of the original number of speakers of Native American languages have disappeared. There were 9 major language groups spoken in the United States alone (Rehling, n.d.).The difficulty of survival for Native American langaugesNative Americans were persecuted simply for being different from Europeans for hundreds of years, the Dawes-Severalty Act, non-citizenship and forced European American reclamation of land destroyed Native American languages and cultures (Barnes & Bowles, 2014). After being suppressed for so long, Native Americans fought back hard. Events like the Alcatraz Occupation, the Native American Power Movement and invasion of Wounded Knee showed their efforts and strength, which granted them rights, and protected Amerindian languages for generations to come. Native American boarding schools and the forced assimilation into EnglishThe 1890s and the closing of the frontier meant large changes for Native American culture. After several decades of fighting for their land, Wounded Knee and the Ghost Power Movement, the federal government sought to place all Native Americans in boarding schools in order to assimilate into white American culture.Speaking any Native American language was strictly forbidden, and doing so could land any of the students into a lot of trouble. One Native American said that they were made to hate their culture, despise their language and look down upon where they came from (Barnes & Bowles, 2014).Woo writes that Chester Nez, the last of the Navajo Code talkers had to brush his teeth with soap with he spoke Navajo at school (Woo, 2014).

(Carlisle, 1900)The Impact of the Laws of the Republic of Hawaii on local language useLucas discusses how the Hawaiian language was official in the Kingdom of Hawaii. According to Lucas, most of the native population was even able to read and write Hawaiian. He writes that a main advocate for English as the official language, Richard Armstrong, petitioned to have English be the main language and established the first English-medium school (Lucas, 2000).After the new Republic was established in 1896, English was declared as the sole official language of Hawaii. Newspapers had declined from 12 to none in 1943, and the amount of Hawaiian-medium schools had been wiped out to zero by 1902. Lucas mentions that it was not until 1965 that their state legislature repealed these laws (Lucas, 2000).Navajo on the world stage for codetalkers in the Second World WarGeneral Phillip Johnston sent a letter to Congress asking that they use Navajo for World War II code efforts. This way, no German or Japanese force could break the code. This gave the Navajos newfound strength and respect as they served their country with their tribal language (Johnston, 1942). The language developed a written form (Woo, 2014), and would set the basis for language growth and victory in World War II.

(Untitled Photograph, Retrieved from: leading up to the Alcatraz OccupationIn 'We Hold The Rock', they mentioned that the 1953 Termination Act effectively had the goal of wiping out Native Americans. One Native American said that "the only translation for [termination] was [to wipe out; exterminate]". The act relocated Native American into urban areas with the promise of job training, an apartment, in order to assimilate into American society. It effectively ended all reservations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and all federal support of Native Americans (2014, "We Hold the Rock"). This angered many of them, because their cultures and languages would be destroyed quickly as the result of this legislation.

(Hartman, 1969)The Alcatraz Occupation and its impact on Native American cultureVarious Native Americans discussed their roles in Alcatraz. They wanted to build a center for worship, one for education, a cultural one to let the federal government know that they are people, that their culture is distinct and that they are the first, original people of the United States. Indians of All Tribes (IAT) wanted negotiations with the federal government for their rights. IAT stood their ground and STAYED ON THEIR ISLAND UNTIL FEDERAL MARSHALS ORDERED THEM OFF IN 1971(2014, "We Hold the Rock").

(Maggiora, 1969)The Native American Language Act of 1990This act, passed in 1990 was the supreme legislation that gave native Americans the right to use their language in any circumstance, from courts to education. This gave native Americans the chance to live their societies in the Amerindian language they chose, without interference from the federal government.The act also addressed the historical wrongdoings of the federal government in regard to their linguistic rights, and apologized for their historical treatment of native Americans languages.

The Native American Power Movement revitalization of cultureTo fight extreme poverty, low education rates, police brutality and culture decline, Native Americans started many movements such as the Red Power Movement, and the American Indian Movement (DIGITAL HISTORY, 2014). THESE MOVEMENTS INCLUDED FISHING PROTESTS (FISH-INS), COUNTLESS LAWSUITS RECLAIMING LAND AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF BROKEN TREATIES, MARCHES AND PROTESTS (DIGITAL HISTORY, 2014)

(Sherve, 2014)Outcomes of Native American Language EventsThe Navajo language had no written form before the codetalkers program in the Second World War started. The Second World War gave Navajo a chance to develop a written form (Woo, 2014).A social activist in the Alcatraz Occupation documentary 'We Hold The Rock' mentioned that their languages had started a trend of revival by virtue of the Alcatraz Occupation (2014, "We Hold The Rock").

BIBLIOGRAPHYDigital History, (2014) "The Native America Power Movement," University of Houston, Retrieved from

Johnston, P. (1942, March 6). Enlistment of Navaho Indians. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from

Lucas, P. (2000). Hawaiian Language Policy and the Courts. The Hawaiian Journal of History, 34, 1-28.Native American Languages Act. (1990, October 30). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from

Rehling, J. (n.d.). Native American Languages. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from

We Hold the Rock [Motion picture]. (2014). Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Woo, E. (2014, June 4). Chester Nez, last of WWII's original Navajo code talkers, dies at 93. L.A. Times. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from

Image creditsCarilisle. (Photographer). 1900. Three Lakota Boys. (Photograph). Retrieved from

Hartman, Ilka. (Photograph). 1969. Alcatraz Occupier. (Photograph). Retrieved from

Sherve, Bradley. (Author). 2014. Red Power Rising. (Cover of Book). Retrieved from

(Untitled photograph of Native American Codetalkers). Retrieved from

Maggiora, Vince. (Staff). 1969. Disputed Alcatraz invasion flag on block. (Photograph). Retrieved from