Littlebear Takes Message To Thailand ConferenceNov 15th, 2008 | By tcj | Category: 20-2: Native Green, Tribal College News
Chief Dull Knife College President Dr. Richard Littlebear was invited to Thailand in July 2008 to speak at the International Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization, and Multilingual Education in Ethnolinguistic Communities. He served on a panel and gave a workshop.
At the panel on Preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage, he focused on the many uses of Cheyenne legends, myths, and folkloric stories — curriculum, social control mechanisms, and pure entertainment. He also addressed the topic of Indigenous poetry/literature from the point of view of an Indigenous person who enjoys using his language to express profound thoughts using simple vocabulary.
“I discussed the fact that our languages are not second class languages just because we have not developed a body of contemporary written literature for all the people, especially children, to hear and use,” Littlebear says. He pointed out that Northern Cheyenne and other indigenous peoples need to write their own poetry and literature in their own languages so that the languages reach beyond the classroom and beyond the simple recitation of legends and myths and folkloric stories.
“Depending exclusively on these legends, myths, and stories stamps us as artifacts that perpetually belong in the past. We need to develop literature that speaks to our contemporary societal contexts and that defines us as ourselves, instead of having mass media define who we are,” he told the gathering in Bangkok.
Littlebear pointed out that languages are “instruments vital to the transmission of our cultures to succeeding generations. They project our healthy individual and cultural identities to the world around us.”
All the speakers at the conference are involved in mother-tongue-based multilingual education and other language-based development programs around the world. The other people on his panel were from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
More than 300 language specialists from 33 countries on six continents attended. The purposes of the conference were to raise awareness about the benefits of mother-tongue-based multilingual programs, to share information from people actively involved in such programs, and to expand networks.
The seven joint sponsors of the event were SIL International, the Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development at Mahidol University, UNESCO-Bangkok, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), UNICEF, Care International, and Save the Children (United Kingdom). This is the second annual conference. The first was in Bangkok in 2003.