It was lovely to hear the Ojibwe language spoken and spoken about on Speaking of Faith this morning. I am a Mohegan who is trying to reclaim and resurrect our language one hundred and one years after that last native speaker died.
The native people on the eastern seaboard were the first to lose their languages through the encroachment of English. But in southern New England, the Mohegan were able to hold on to their language the longest, because of the foundation of friendship with the settlers laid by our Sachem Uncas in the 1600s. This culture of hospitality and welcoming perhaps made us less threatening to our white neighbors and they pretty much left us alone. Our cousins the Pequots across the river did not share this philosophy and were deliberately disseminated and outlawed. We were also considered Christianized and therefore civilized, so we were not included in the later forced westward movement.
Personally, my native roots spring from both Connecticut and Hawaii and during my teenage years in Hawaii I discovered the Baha'i Faith. One of the interesting principles of the Faith that brings me to where I am today is the need for a universal auxiliary language. Auxiliary implies that first languages are maintained and the auxiliary language is the helper. Because of this, as the Baha'i Faith spread across the world we have been making it a practice to help preserve the languages in those countries where the Faith was taught. This practice moved me to work as a linguist for our Tribe. I am now on the Council of Elders (an arm of our government) and continuing my linguistic work as well.
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