Why Revitalizing The Wampanoag Language Is An Act Of Patriotism

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Thanksgiving is an important holiday for America, as it represents the harmony of a feast that brings people of different races and entire families together. However, while the celebration continues to be cherished, the language spoken by the Wampanoag Nation did not. In this article, I want to explain why it is not just important to revitalize the Wampanoag language, but incumbent upon every American to assist in anyway.

After years of English encroachment and the resulting language shift, Wampanoag, or as it is currently being spelled Wopanaak, stopped being spoken in the 1800’s. For the recent decades, the dormant language has been in the process of revitalization through the endeavor of linguist and Wampanoag native Jessie Little Doe Baird. There have been five different Wampanoag class locations throughout Massachusetts teaching 500 people.

By attending the language workshops sponsored by the Wopaanak Language Reclamation Project, the members would reclaim their identity. Come every Thanksgiving, they would play an incredibly important role in broadcasting their historical importance in feasting with their visitors from the Mayflower. By doing so, Thanksgiving would no longer be a holiday with kitsch enticements, such as the Black Friday sales that would come a day after; but an authentic and integral part of American identity that brings together natives and non-natives. The long-term effects of this language revitalization would help make the American population more well-educated about Thanksgiving.

Although the story of the meeting between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans was romanticized, it does show how diplomacy played a role in the early English settlements of America. For Americans to help with the revitalization process, it is itself a diplomatic act of awareness, letting the Wampanoag nation know that they are no longer ignored or pushed from American society. By providing assistance for the Wopanaak language revitalization, the government would attempt to right the wrongs that had been committed against the indigenous population, one nation at a time.

There were actually recorded documents written in Wopanaak during the 17th century. In fact, the Wopanaak language has the largest written body of work of all the other Native American languages. One of the most notable, and one that Jessie Little Doe Baird used as a main reference, was a copy of the Holy Bible written in Wopanaak by John Eliot, a missionary sent to convert the Indians to Christianity.

By focusing on the Wopanaak language, we are focusing our attentions on a group of people who are integral to American history and deserve tremendous respect. Their role in helping the Pilgrims and the impact it made also removes the monopoly of Anglo-Saxon superiority on how history was recorded. A reporter for CBS News even noted the irony that the Wopanaak-translated Bible that was used to make the Wampanoag Nation into English-speaking subjects ended up being used to bring back their language. This language revitalization project would make American history more complex and give the marginalized Native Americans a voice.

Their voice may have even vocalized the place-names throughout New England, such as Mashpee, Nahant, Swampscott, Natick, and even the state of Massachusetts itself. To increase scholarship into the Wopanaak language is to decipher the etymologies of these place-names, or toponyms. Since those Wopanaak-originated names described the landscape, the research would result in a more grounded interpretation of American history based on the New England geography and a more accurate imagination of how the Pilgrims dealt with this foreign land.

What can be more patriotic than examining the landscape of your own country? That is what makes deciphering the toponyms so important, especially since the indigenous population has an intimate relationship with their landscape and are willing to shape their own beliefs and languages revolving around it. This is where linguists, astrophysicists, and scientists alike can reach a common-ground agreement. K. David Harrison, who traveled to Siberia to record the indigenous languages, stated that 83% of all plant and animal life are unknown to Western scientists. What average Americans can also take from this is that indigenous languages, like Wopanaak, are not as irrelevant as they think.

As well as the landscape, the words and knowledge of the nation present at the first Thanksgiving would be important for young Wampanoag children to acquire for their personal well-being as well as the cultural well-being of their community. In order to have increased scholarship, study, and overall awareness into this part of American history and geography, there needs to be an entire generation of people proficient enough to use it as a first language, just like every other struggling language like Irish Gaelic and Hawai’ian. For this reason, a Wopanaak immersion school for kindergarteners was established in 2015, dedicated to teaching social studies, history, art, science, math, and many other subjects in Wopanaak in more than 1000 lesson plans.

How would I like to see Wopanaak revitalized to include all Americans? There are more clear ways of helping, but I would also like Americans to learn more about the place-names that come from this nation’s language during the time the Pilgrims settled. It would help if those areas of New England had Wopanaak translations on their cities’ websites, in the same way the Australian city Adelaide has Australian Aboriginal translations on their website. Every Thanksgiving would be the opportunity for Americans to learn salutations and other phrases such as “Hello,” “My name is…,” and “Thank you” in Wopanaak. These efforts would show that Americans appreciate Thanksgiving as a holiday as well as the recognition of the nation that made it happen.

Do We Learn New Topics Or Explore Pre-Existing Ones?

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Chances are we may have learned a little bit of math in school, but we never got the opportunity to learn more complicated levels of arithmetic such as trigonometry; especially because some of us took career paths that did not involve a lot of math. Or we may have come across quotations and references of William Shakespeare in the films we watch or the books we read before actually discovering which plays they come from. If that is the case, then there are definitely subjects within subjects when it comes to education.

In my attempt to map out an educational/career path, I have decided to diversify my academic credentials by pursuing a second Master’s Degree in a field that contains a focus on the STEM field. The issue is that I would need to completely readjust my way of processing information in order to pass the GRE test (which is an examination required for anyone pursuing a Master’s Degree, though I am pursuing a graduate field that did not require it) as well as actually succeed and even enjoy the courses. That would mean that I would have to take advantage of the tutoring services in my university as much as I can.

Though would I really need to completely readjust my way of processing math when I already took all of my math requirement courses in community college? Because it is not like I DO NOT know what a Roth IRA or geometric shapes are, but I do have a problem with disassembling these equations and finding out the results. Therefore, this means that I have a problem with problem-solving–when the issue involves mathematics.

There is the linguistic issue that can come about when it comes to my predicament, which is that I do not simply LEARN but EXPLORE. Instead of using a word most associated with the process of accumulation, I would have to use a word that has value in terms of finding or uncovering things that were hinted at and already conceptualized in my mind.

In other words, I investigate further what makes equations and the structure what they really are not to draw my own conclusion but to discover what that conclusion already is. Normally, we usually think of knowledge as empirical, in other words as only drawing conclusions based on evidence, also known as “a posteriori.” However, I will say that in my case, it is more about the “a priori” argument, which is that the truth can be found without the need of any proof. This theory applies to mathematics since the overall structure is already present all around you without the need for belief.

Since the truth is already present within the objects themselves (such as the “a priori” statement: 2+2=4; “Red is a color;” and “If today is Tuesday then it is not Thursday”), it would mean that I would have to shift from my way of thinking as a Liberal Arts major, where I have always had to conjure up my own conclusion or my own opinion with references to my claims. It would mean that I would have to go beyond simple memorization of the equations and about actually applying them in any way possible.

However, because I am more specifically interested in the sciences, it would involve the same types of “a posteriori” type of thinking that would have been needed as a liberal arts major, particularly since the Scientific Method is involved which is heavily reliant on evidence and developing hypotheses.. Since I would need to take the GRE and employ math skills to my natural science education, would I need to employ both “a priori” and “a posteriori” ways of justification into my education?

I think that the issue is really multifaceted and one that I would have to answer while pursuing this diversified field. I have decided to attempt to pursue an M.S. in order to uncover deeper truths that rest within this world around us, as well as to bring a sense of relevance to the scientific field that was generally considered boring. Namely making science relevant to me and perhaps to anyone else interested. It wouldn’t simply involve learning about the field but learning more in-depth about it.

Pacific Islanders Need To Be Heard

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

This was a topic I can remember discussing in my environmental science class when it came to the environment as it applied to people’s health. Regarding the topic of environment and health, there is definitely the concern for the Pacific Islanders, specifically the Marshall Islanders, who have to deal with the thermal expansion of the Pacific Ocean as well as a myriad of problems made manifest by climate change and outside interference.

Not only is there the worry of rising tides destroying the infrastructure, but the sewage is washed up, causing fever and dysentery; and the saltwater has infiltrated the salinized underground freshwater if it hasn’t already been infiltrated by pesticides. If that is not a big enough problem, there are droughts that affect the interior of the islands. In a drought that occurred in 2013, 1/3 of all Marshallese were directly affected by it, with food and water shortages. These water shortages can only affect a country like the Marshall Islands where the overwhelming majority of the water that is collected comes from rainfall.

The more the planet gets warmer, the more intense the health issues are. Climate change would contribute not just heat stroke and tropical diseases, but also rising sea levels that destroy crops and the acidification of the water that kills fish. As such, food not grown on the Marshall Islands, such as rice, flour, and meat, have been imported and has contributed to an unhealthy lifestyle. Sixty-five percent of the Marshallese population is overweight or obese.

The biggest problem for the people of those islands is that the sea level may rise to 16 inches in the next 50 years. Adding to the constant water infiltration and the encroachment of floods, the Marshall Islands may not be inhabitable by the time that happens.

We as Westerners usually associate the post-apocalyptic world as being reserved within the context of what future MIGHT unfold. “Hunger Games” comes as an example. However, for a lot of people in this world, such as Native Americans when it comes to colonization, they are already living in a post-apocalyptic world, which really is not hard to think about. When your whole society is destabilized by some occurrence, whether it would be an invading army, land encroachment, or natural disasters, it can be pretty apocalyptic.

We also usually think about a post-apocalyptic world is one caused by a nuclear explosion. As it turned out, Marshallese people were first-hand witness to (and victims of) atomic bomb tests conducted by the US government from 1946-1958. It actually forced residents from the islands Rongelap and Utrik to evacuate. As a result, some of the people were exposed to the radiation, and as a result, 1.6% of all cancer diagnoses can be traced back to those nuclear tests.

Because of the long military history between the Marshall Islands and the United States, Marshallese residents can immigrate to the United States freely. The only issues in the foreseeable future is how to not only manage the climate and keep a strong tie with the island but also how to handle the tens of thousands of Pacific climate refugees who are sick in a wide variety of ways, if there are important people who are not cynical enough to use that exodus as political fodder for the 2020 elections.

To understand how much environmental destruction has an effect on the Pacific population is to have empathy. If anyone in the United States of America were to experience all that was described, their government would not hesitate to use all of their funding to research, combat, and quite possibly reverse climate change. Perhaps it will one day come to that point when they WILL suffer and regret having apathy. I am a powerless graduate student and the only course of action I can come up with is to spread the word.