Linguist and Cultural Preservationist Daryl Baldwin | 2016 MacArthur Fellow

Linguist and Cultural Preservationist Daryl Baldwin | 2016 MacArthur Fellow


[Spoken in Myaamia Language] My name is Darryl Baldwin
I’m a citizen of the Miami tribe of Oklahoma. I’m a linguist and cultural
preservationist. Our purpose for revitalizing the Myaamia language is so
that the current generation will have a stronger connection to their heritage. There’s also a tremendous amount of
cultural information associated with our language that we, as a living people, the
descendants of Myaamia people, want to preserve. [Spoken in Myaamia language] How do
you revive a language when there’s no speakers? I think there has to be a
tremendous amount of ambition, curiosity, drive, and willingness to simply try. The
reason I decided to pursue the Myaamia language was that, in my childhood, I knew
that I was a Miami Indian. I didn’t know much about that other than genealogical
information, historical information, and so I developed a curiosity for the
language and I began to look to see if there were any speakers left. What i
found is that the speakers had passed about the time I was born in the early
1960s, and then I stumbled across some sheets of paper that my grandfather had
that had language on it so he too must have been interested in the language
even though I knew he did he was not a speaker of the language. The mission of
the Myaamia center is really to serve as the research arm for the Miami tribe of
Oklahoma’s efforts in language and culture revitalization. One of the things
we found we’ve had to do is develop our own technologies for working with the
kinds of materials that we work with. So. for instance, I know, how do you work with
historical language documents in such a way that allow us to extract the
information from that, store it, make it retrievable, or searchable, so we’ve had
to come up with specific software and and create softwares for that kind of work. Language and culture are inseparable the sense that, if you’re going to speak
a language, there has to be a both cultural and community context for that
language. Miami tribe of Oklahoma has midwinter stomp dance that’s at the end
of January; in June, we have national gathering week and then aside from those,
we have youth programs, like the A1 Zappata program and the [Spoken in Myaamia] summer day
care program. So we’ve had youth grow up through a lot of these programs and
through Miami University, we also have a growing base of tribal students that
come here to Miami; and many of those students will serve as counselors in our
youth programs during the summer so there’s this constant
cross-fertilization of of tribal experiences at the youth level. [Spoken in Myaami] For the young tribe students that choose to come
to Miami University under the Miami Indian Heritage Program, they are
required to take a series of courses and languages is then really woven into all of
that; it is very much a healing process and also a very important part of
reconnecting to our identity as Myaamia people.

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