Friday June 22, 2018

historic Indian Sign Language Grand Council: Native American Hand Talkers Fight to Keep Sign Language Alive

The three-day council held was organized by Hugh L. Scott, a 77-year-old U.S. Army General who had spent a good portion of his career in the American West, where he observed and learned what users called Hand Talk

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Detail of portrait of Shoshoni Chief Tendoi Demonstrating Sign Language. (Photo by Charles M. Bell, circa 1880, courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.), VOA
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April 4, 2017: In early September 1930, the Blackfeet Nation of Montana hosted a historic Indian Sign Language Grand Council, gathering leaders of a dozen North American Nations and language groups.

The three-day council held was organized by Hugh L. Scott, a 77-year-old U.S. Army General who had spent a good portion of his career in the American West, where he observed and learned what users called Hand Talk, and what is today more broadly known as Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL). With $5,000 in federal funding, Scott filmed the proceedings and hoped to produce a film dictionary of more than 1,300 signs. He died before he could finish the project.

Among them is Ron Garritson, who identifies himself as being of Choctaw and European heritage. He was raised in Billings, Montana, near the Crow Nation.

“I learned how to speak Crow to a degree, and I was really interested in the sign language,” he said. “I saw it being used by the Elders, and I thought it was a beautiful form of communication. And so I started asking questions.”

Garritson studied Scott’s films, along with works by other ethnographers and now has a vocabulary of about 1,700 signs. He conducts workshops and classes across Montana, in an effort to preserve and spread sign language and native history.

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Lingua franca

Prior to contact with Europeans, North American Native peoples were not a unified culture, but hundreds of different cultures and tribes, each with its own political organization, belief system and language. When speakers of one language met those of another, whether in trade, councils or conflict, they communicated in the lingua franca of Hand Talk.

Scholars dispute exactly when, in their 30,000-year history in North America, tribes developed sign language. It was observed among Florida tribes by 16th Century Spanish colonizers.

“Coronado, as he documented in his journals in 1540, was in Texas and met the Comanche,” said Garritson. “He documented that the Comanches made themselves so well-understood with the use of sign talk that there was almost no need for an interpreter. It was that easy to use and easy to understand.”

While each tribe had its own dialect, tribes were able to communicate easily. Though universal in North America, Hand Talk was more prominent among the nomadic Plains Nations.

“There were fewer linguistic groups east of the Mississippi River,” said Garritson. “They were mostly woodland tribes, living in permanent villages and were familiar with each other’s languages. They still used sign language to an extent, but not like it was used out here.”

Hand Talk was also the first language of deaf Natives.

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Erasing a culture

By the late 1800s, tens of thousands of Native Americans still used Hand Talk. That changed when the federal government instituted a policy designed to “civilize” tribal people.

Children were removed from their families and sent to government-run boarding schools, where they were forbidden to speak their own languages or practice their own spiritual beliefs. Native Deaf children were sent to deaf residential schools, where they were taught to use American Sign Language (ASL).

Research has shown that Hand Talk is still being used by a small number of deaf and hearing descendants of the Plains Indian cultures.

“Hand Talk is endangered and dying quickly,” said Melanie McKay-Cody, who identifies herself as Cherokee Deaf and is an expert in anthropological linguistics.

McKay-Cody is the first deaf researcher to specialize in North American Hand Talk and today works with tribes to help them preserve their signed languages. She is pushing for PISL to be incorporated into mainstream education of the deaf.

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“Easier than hollering”

Lanny Real Bird, who is Crow, Arikara and Hidatsa, grew up in a household where PISL was used.

“My grandmother had hearing loss,” he said. “I’d see my father signing with her in the Plains Indian Sign Language. I picked up basic sign language, enough to say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ ‘I’m hungry.”

As a boy, he played with a young relative who was deaf, who helped expand his signing vocabulary.

Real Bird, a former instructor at Montana’s Little Big Horn College, has worked for 20 years helping tribes preserve their languages, both spoken and signed, and has developed a 400 to 600-sign PISL course, which he teaches at community schools and workshops across the Plains states.

“Right now we’re probably at the basic communications phase,” he said. “So in order to expand, we have to go to another level, from listening to understanding to rudimentary communicating to fluency and literacy.”

Real Bird said it took nearly a decade to convince school systems to incorporate PISL into general language instruction.

“Later this month, students of the of the Crow Reservation’s Wyola Elementary School will be showcased at the annual Montana Indian Education Conference,” he said.

There, they will demonstrate their Crow language skills, both spoken and signed.
-VOA

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)