Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Native Languages of the Americas

Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis' Native Languages of the Americas website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2007. While I doubt that everything to know about Native languages can be found on their site, I also doubt that any other site has more information on Native languages.

Orrin is a Cherokee and Laura appears to have been his webmaster or "webmistress."

Relevant quotes from their site:

Confusion about the names:
"Algonquin" vs. "Algonquian" and "Algonkian":
Hardly a week goes by that we don't get email from at least one kid looking for information on the "Algonquian tribe." Adults, too, write to us trying to do genealogical research on their "Algonkian" ancestors or learn the "Algonquian" heritage of their state. There's just one problem with this: THERE IS NO ALGONQUIAN TRIBE! There is an Algonquin (or Algonkin) tribe, who live in Canada. But the word Algonquian (or Algonkian) is a more general linguistic/anthropological term used to refer to not only the small Algonquin tribe but dozens of distinct Native American tribes who speak languages that are related to each other. If you are interested in linguistics, we have a page with in-depth information about the Algonkian languages and their relationships to each other. If you have a school report to write on the culture of the "Algonquians," though, you may have trouble. Imagine you had a homework assignment on "Indo-European" clothing. When you looked in the encyclopedia, you'd see that "Indo-Europeans" actually include the Dutch, the Spanish, the Russians, and the Indians in India. What would you write about? The Spanish don't wear saris or wooden clogs, and the Indians don't wear fur hats or lace mantillas. In Siberia it gets to be -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and in Bombay it can be hotter than 100 degrees and humid. You would have a hard time completing this assignment.

Q & A:
Q: Is Orrin a medicine man?
A: No. Not every old Indian is a medicine person, any more than every old Italian is a priest. I do not have any religious authority as a Cherokee or as a Christian. I'm just an ordinary person. I believe in Cherokee traditions, I believe in Christ, and I believe the two are not incompatible. I also believe Andrew Jackson is in Hell.

Relevant links to the Native Languages of the Americas site:

Their Native American Languages Index:
Their Native American Culture Index:

I recommend their Algonquian Facts for Kids page for all ages.
There's a wealth of information about "Algonquian" or "Algonkian" Languages on their site.

Have you ever wondered which modern-day English words came from the Algonquian languages? Then check this link.
They also have some material about New York Indians, but I'm saving that for a later post.

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