02 October 2010

linguistic genocide attempt

Languages die beneath tongues silenced
in schools designed to transform little Indians
into assimilated copies of the dutiful US.

The great white father molded death
with agrarian paradigms
and words shoved down throats.
God the Father, household tasks and
and shut your dirty Indian mouth
covered the curriculum.

One weekend per month at home
sent Cheyenne syllables swirling silently
through Tongue River eddies.

I wrote this in response to the chapter on language in "We the Northern Cheyenne People," written at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, Montana. The chapter reports that in 2007, the youngest person who spoke fluent Cheyenne was 45 years old.

If you happen to visit, I miss you my poet friends. When my college class is over in mid December, I'll be back with greater regularity.


Mary said...

Brenda, YES I happened to visit; and yes, I miss your writing too. Glad to see a poem by you.

So sad about the death of the Cheyenne language. Similar things happen all too often, all too often.

brenda w said...

Hi Mary, Thanks for stopping by. I clarified some information about the Cheyenne language above. You are helping me fill in the story. :) There is at least one language immersion school on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana in an attempt to keep the language alive. I'll be reading more about it this week. ha! I love learning, but time is no longer mine.

flaubert said...

Brenda I saw you on my blogroll. And I am so happy to see a poem by you.
Hopefully they will keep the language alive. I miss seeing you.

Diane T said...

Sad poem, Brenda. I know this happened in Hawaii too. And in the Sedona area with the Native Americans too.(Also in Australia with the Aboriginals)