TBT- Turtle Rising

Not about film or photography buuuut…

Lately I’ve made a couple of posts regarding graduations and a week or two ago my “baby” brother graduated high school. Now, since he was a Sr this year, there’s been a lot of family talk about all the things we all use to do in school. With him being the youngest of 5 there will be no more “chicks in the nest.” One of the things that we all enjoyed participating/competing in was the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. Well, I could go on and on describing ONAYLF and all the memories and friendships formed there but instead I’d like to take the time to talk a little about the importance of preserving Native cultures through language.

Language is the one thing that truly distinguishes one culture from another. There are many nations world wide. While each has cultural elements all their own, for years they have shared and traded — clothes, tools, food, and much more —  amongst their neighbors creating a sort of micro-integration. This is even more prevalent today on a global scale. But the one thing that remains their own is their language. This is what distinguishes one culture from another similar/related one. This is especially important for Native American people’s since many of our traditions have been squelched, and the media and movies have lumped us all into one stereotype over the years. That’s more that 500 hundred different tribes/nations all lumped into one image.

Now, I’m not saying that we need to promote segregation (“I’m different than you…” “we aren’t the same…” “you aren’t a part of my culture/group… get lost” etc). It is important that we all recognize each other as fellow human beings. We are all the same and equal in that right. However, it is also important to embrace our cultural identity. It is important in forming our sense of self and belonging in the world.

Another reason it is particularly important for Native Americans is sovereignty. First peoples have had so many things taken from them. Endured so much. There are people alive still today who went to the boarding schools where unspeakable things were done to children. There is a concern that if we loose our cultures and our languages which are clearly distinct, that we will lose the last “right” we’ve been left with: tribal sovereignty.

After all that has happened though, hope remains for the preservation of Native cultures. So I leave you with the following: Loksishto Abawa — “Turtle Rising.”

Three turtles swim in the river of time…

The first and oldest is at the surface of the water because that is when Native languages were at their peak. They were pure and thriving.

The second represents the time from the removal (trail of tears) through the boarding schools. The language was suppressed and nearly drowned out. 

The third turtle is now. It is rising again as people have found new courage to speak and to start teaching the language to the new generation. 

(Original poster by me, 2007)


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