Research on Native speeches funds scholarships at ANC

Sep 6th, 2013 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge, Tribal College News
By Donna Miller

Aaniiih and Nakoda SpeechesA primary intention of the Aaniiih Nakoda College (ANC, Harlem, MT) 2012 Title III Faculty Development Mini-Grants Initiative was to support faculty in developing programs, conducting research, designing initiatives, and engaging in discipline-specific professional development. To apply, interested faculty members wrote proposals that explained their project’s relationship to ANC’s mission and described the final project deliverables. One project awarded funding was Cristina Estrada’s study of Aaniiih and Nakoda speeches.

Estrada directs the liberal arts degree program at ANC and also teaches a wide array of courses, including college writing, literature, and public speaking. As an instructor, Estrada noticed how many of her students’ speeches followed the Western model of communication, which led her to wonder how traditional American Indian speech delivery differed. By looking at American Indian public speaking, along with the length, occasion, and purpose of traditional speeches, she sought to illuminate the cultural values of the Aaniiih and Nakoda tribes.

Estrada’s research culminated in a booklet published by Artcraft Printers entitled, Aaniiih and Nakoda Speeches: Past and Present Fort Belknap Deliveries for Different Occasions and Purposes. It describes the most common types of speeches delivered from pre-reservation times to the present day. The booklet begins with an overview of characteristics common to most American Indian speeches, including sensory appeal, archetypal imagery, and figurative language. In addition, she describes the context and content of speeches delivered at feeds, ceremonies, powwows, giveaways, and memorials.

Intended as an introduction to Aaniiih and Nakoda speechmaking, Estrada acknowledges, “This is just the tip of the iceberg; so much more research is needed on this topic.” She hopes the booklet will become part of ANC’s public speaking curriculum. “The inclusion of this document will make the course more relevant to the students of these tribes. With it, I hope to honor their identities,” she said.  Another purpose of the study is “to understand the philosophy shaping some of these deliveries, the context, and the body of information shared by the speakers with their audiences in varied settings.”

Because Estrada interviews various language and cultural experts on the Fort Belknap reservation, her research reflects different perspectives and shares diverse cultural values. In this way, the booklet becomes a cultural artifact, as well as a description of how the Aaniiih and Nakoda have evolved intertribally due to their co-existence.

Students are at the root of Estrada’s project, as proceeds from book sales will fund scholarships. Dedicated to student success and cultural preservation, Estrada tells her pupils, “Never give up if life gets in the way; balance out your cultural activities with your academics, and always let everybody know you are very proud of who you are and from where you came.”

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