Community Revival Of The Narragansett Language

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

This link, in the case of the Narragansett language, can only be established by the Narragansett nation itself, specifically the young generation being taught it. It would involve entire generations of Narragansett natives, including the ancestors who wrote down their words in the publication “The Narragansett Dawn” and by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island who transcribed Narragansett words. It would not only bring the living descendants together, but it would connect them to the very ancestors who passed down the words, either through the place-names in Rhode Island or on print.

The ethnonym Narragansett means “people of the small point of land.” That small point, of course, refers to the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, which has other place-names derived from the Narragansett language, such as Aquidneck, Miantanomi, Pojack, and Sakonnet. Upon developing the Rhode Island colony, Roger Williams wrote down Narragansett words in his book A Key Into The Language Of The Americas. This text provided the main cornerstone for the revitalization of the Narragansett language by the Aquidneck Indian Council. Of course, there were mistakes made by Roger Williams that the Council noticed, such as not providing examples of the obviative case.

The Narragansett people belong to the Narragansett Indian Nation of Rhode Island. They have lived in New England for 30,000 years prior to European colonization. Alongside the Wampanoags, Nipmucs, and other nations, the Narragansett nation was among the first to interact with British colonizers. One of them was Roger Williams. Decades later, they entered the Pequot War of 1675, by allying with King Philip to fight against the Puritans, until they were brutally defeated and sold into slavery. Their language was ultimately lost due to the encroachment of English linguistic hegemony.

Although a team of linguists can play a role in bringing back a dead language from archives, the language-speaking community itself would need to develop new speakers through a myriad of talents ranging from pedagogy, music, illustration, etc. Skills of many backgrounds would create a diverse interaction between members of the Narragansett Indian Nation. As such, all of them have a role to play in the revival of their own language. This is also what makes the academic linguistic community more connected with the cultures they study, by not sitting upon an ivory tower rather by actively engaging with the language-speaking community. Frank Waabu O’Brien, although a member of the Abenaki nation, has been the scholar who has been ardent in restoring the Narragansett language-speaking community. His articles span for two decades and has been an active leader in the Aquidneck Indian Council in their efforts to restore Narragansett.

Although writing the Narragansett language did exist in the past, tribal members trying to actively bring it back were also not exclusive to it. From 1935-6, a newspaper headed by the Narragansett chief, Princess Red Wing (whos birth name was Mary E. Glasko), began to circulate among the Narragansett community. Among other sections that discussed sports and issues involving Native Americans at the time, there was a section on each issue titled “The Narragansett Tongue,” which showed a list of words and their conjugations.

That is why the language-speakers must take advantage of every form of technology that has been innovated in order to transmit their language and hopefully preserve it. There exists a very cute way of teaching Narragansett words, which is a Facebook page titled “Speaking Our Narragansett Language,” which often include memes and videos with Narragansett words or translations.

To bring in new speakers of Narragansett means circulating it among themselves, which was the major importance of “The Narragansett Tongue.” It would become an integral part of Narragansett life and literature, as it would help educate the nation about their own language in order to regain fluency, even if it starts with phrases such as “Hello,” “My name is…,” and “Thank you.” Indeed, the word phrase for “hello” in New Zealand English, spoken by both native and non-native New Zealanders, is “kia ora” which is Maori for “be healthy.”

In the most successful example of extinct language revitalization, the speakers of the Hebrew language sought to bring it into their own homes. In other words, they had to invent words for appliances and food. This need to fill in any lexical gaps is a common feature in languages that were extinct by the time telephones were invented. This would be an obstacle I can imagine might happen to the Narragansett speakers.

There are different methods of introducing new speakers in a language revitalization project. When it comes to endangered languages, the remaining speakers are often the ones who teach the language. However, in an extinct language with no living speakers, there has to be at least one speaker that is fluent enough to pass it on to all generations, especially the young generation. As such, the transmitters of the language would have to be the ones who have adept scholarly knowledge about their own language. This was especially true for Jessie Little Doe Baird when she wanted to bring back the Wampanoag language and Daryl Baldwin who wanted to bring back his Myaamia language.

Considering how the Narragansett language is very similar to the Wampanoag language, with some scholars saying they are dialects, then it would be appropriate to see how the Wampanoag language is reclaiming its speakers. One way they have done so was to open up a preschool where young Wampanoag children are immersed in the language. For the Narragansett nation, they used to have a school.

I definitely think that it would be important to the Narragansett nation to restore their language, not just as words or phrases but as an active component of their Native American identity. Bringing back new speakers of the Narragansett language would also help to preserve the reservation’s unique identity in America that does not involve a casino, which has become a stereotype characteristic of many Native American nations. It would also help create a more well-educated view of Rhode Island, especially since when people think of that state, they think of Family Guy. I do believe that restoring the Narragansett language would be beneficial to Rhode Island as much as restoring the Wampanoag language would be to Massachusetts.

As Frank Waabu O’Brien would conclude in Narragansett:

Wunnohtaeonk

“Peace be in your hearts.”

 

Image Attribution: Twitter

The Importance Of Interdisciplinary Studies In A Complex World

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

For my Experiential Education requirement course, I had to take a course revolving around studying career paths, specifically from the Roadtrip Nation website and their book. The people behind it took a road-trip interviewing as many people as possible about their career paths, how they got to where they were, and what advice they have. What captivated me was the interview with film director Valerie Weiss, who produced films such as “The Light Beneath Their Feet” and “Losing Control.”

She is actually a scientist with a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. How she was able to apply her STEM experience to her film career was by applying the Scientific Method to every scene she cast. They were all considered part of hypotheses and if they failed to produce her desired results, they were revised.

Ever since I graduated with a B.A. in English, I wanted to challenge myself to explore an academic field that is not liberal arts related. Since I am a graduate student, I am given more independence beyond just a single course. More specifically I was just as interested in astronomy or biology alongside my liberal arts interests. I was hoping that by juxtaposing those fields into a unique educational path, I would brace for a job market where there is a lot of competition. I did not want to be superior in any way, rather I wanted to establish my own niche in an ever-changing world.

This would involve learning about two to three academic fields in order to provide a variety of answers to a single problem. What happens in interdisciplinary studies is that the student leads the faculty, despite it usually being the case that it is the other way around. What interdisciplinary studies show is that the student genuinely cares about the material being taught and is willing to shape his/her educational experience around his/her own academic interests. It is for this reason that Debra Humphreys, the vice president of policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, knows that employers look for self-direction as one of their most desirable skills.

To summarize interdisciplinary studies, Anne Feldman, who wrote the article “Why We Need To Put The Arts Into STEM Education,” concludes that:

“STEAM is people-centric, not subject-centric.”

If such an unusual academic field requires the self-direction of its students, then it would most definitely be the case that people-centric education may be an undervalued component, especially since the person pursuing this field would be driven to inquire further about his/her own field until it leads to other fields.

Graduated students with Interdisciplinary Studies degrees are also important in the workforce since they understand multiple perspectives. This results in more flexibly minded innovation, which would, therefore, result in productivity. Creativity is itself a state of mind that enables flexibility. It can focus on creating overlooked career paths, such as medical illustrators for science magazines. The mixture of Indigenous Studies and Programming would result in an app created by a Canadian programmer to detail the lands in the Americas and Australia as divisions of the tribes before colonization. This could lead the way to actually address any legal issues that may arise between an indigenous reservation and the local government. This complex view of the world was also used by famous brilliant people such as Leonardo da Vinci, who studied mathematics, engineering, and art.

It also creates an overlapping path that can incorporate both liberal arts and STEM, which can prevent entrenched controversies that can occur simply because the information, as well as the way it is presented, can be misunderstood by the other party. In the case of Dr. Myra Strober, a Stanford University professor, she personally witnessed a religious studies professor and an economist argue until the latter left the room. Allen Repko, the author of “Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory,” argued that interdisciplinary studies would also help the student confront his/her own biases and opinions. Interdisciplinary Studies is important in this way since it can unite people of different academic fields with the same objectives.

As such, this would enable unique problem-solving skills. In the case of Shama Rahman, who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience of Musical Creativity, she put the concept of memory under question by engaging in an experiment which enabled the test subject to obtain false memories by listening to music in their sleep. This is what, as she concluded, was what makes the connection between dreams and memories as opposed to memories being a strictly chronological log. This is what enabled her to use this work to research dementia. Indeed, this is what would uncover broad breakthroughs in any field of study.

Exploring interdisciplinary fields is what would help all the decline in STEM job placements. They would make subjects such as math and science no longer appear boring and would actually provide meaning for students to explore their creative interests through the STEM field. There are schools in Pennsylvania that understand this, which is why 12 school districts will spend $530,000 on STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math) programs. That budget will pay for a robotics lab, a motivation station, an outdoor discovery zone, and a virtual immersion lab. This is definitely what makes interdisciplinary studies a “smorgasbord of academic interests.”

It would definitely be worth it to be “not constrained by disciplinary borders” and having an “entrepreneurial spirit.” This field of study is one that is severely underestimated and one that employers are looking for. It can bring people together and solve complex problems. Rahman concluded her TED talk by asking anyone interested in pursuing interdisciplinary studies:

“What worlds do you connect and how?”

This is definitely a question I, as well as many other people, hope to answer.

The Love-Hate Relationship Between Creativity And Mental Disorders

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

While it is true that creativity and mental disorders such as pervasive depression disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can coexist, that connection cannot be simplified in such a way as to imply that great art can only be inspired by great suffering. The factors that can provide that connection can come from inside the brain itself. The connection between creativity and mental disorders is complex and requires looking into it, not to find just the causation of creativity, but also about the process of its creation.

Creativity can only exist within mentally ill people when their ailments do not prevent them from doing so. Julia Wilde of Discovery News said eloquently that “Many creative types find themselves disabled by their disorders just as often as they are inspired by them.” Not only that, but mental disorders are quite different in terms of how they impact the brain. In the case of depressives, since their prefrontal lobes are shrunken, they do not find satisfaction in anything. It is only when their dopamine levels increase that they become creative. Whereas, people with schizophrenia have incredibly high levels of dopamine and hyperactivity in the frontal lobe, which can result in blurring between reality and fiction.

In some ways, it can be argued that the stereotype of the “Tortured Artist” is itself harmful, as it only implies that creative people can only be taken seriously and their works can only be regarded with awe when they have a mental disorder. Although famous artists and writers such as Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and Vincent Van Gogh are the prime examples when it comes to this connection, it is not inherent within talented artists to have a mental disorder. According to Anthony Fantano, a well-known YouTuber who reviews music, who has more than one million subscribers, great art mainly consists of communication and skill.

It would make sense that people with mental disorders are more inclined to creativity, especially when these mental disorders consist of dwelling on negative thoughts and memories. By obsessing over them, they also include a myriad of solutions unique to those problems. It is even proven that the precuneus, the center of the brain responsible for retrieving those memories, remains active among creative people during the process of thought, whereas in any other normal functioning brain it remains deactivated. So the internal struggle may not simply be the inspiration for great works of art, but it is an assisting component. Not only does problem-solving become a major skill in this complex relationship, but Professor Nancy Andreason of the University of Auckland argued it also includes exploration, doubt, and curiosity.

Genetics may also play a role in mental disorders. A prime example would be the prevalence of suicide among Ernest Hemingway’s own family members. As it turns out, in a study conducted on Icelanders, Swedes, and Dutch people, people in creative professions have a 17-25% greater chance of being diagnosed with a mental disorder than people in non-creative professions, and this was proven by examining the genetics of creative people when looking at the prevalence of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

These “tortured artists” do not gain their innovation because of their disease, rather they gain it to counteract the disease by compensating that temporary lack of dopamine with tremendous bursts of creativity. The concept of mental disorders include many types of that affect the brain in different ways, which adds to the complexity of the “Tortured Artist” connection. I will definitely say that mental illness is not something that can lead to great works of art, but great works of art can be the treatment. Adrienne Sussman, from the Stanford Journal of Neuroscience, agrees by stating “…instead of trying to eliminate them [mental illness] by medication, we should embrace these mental states as valuable in their own right.” No amount of prescriptions and anti-depressants can fix the complexities that exist within mental disorders and art can provide an in-sight and, quite possibly, the remedy for them.