UNT raising awareness about indigenous language revitalization with event series

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 - 14:41

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The University of North Texas is celebrating indigenous languages in a series of events this fall as part of the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages

According to the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 40 percent of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages are in danger of disappearing. 

A language is not only a means of communication, it’s intertwined with the cultures, histories and identities of the people who speak it. 

“We hope to bring attention to the challenges that indigenous communities have faced and are facing through the impacts of globalization, modernization and the legacies of colonization,” said Christina Wasson, UNT anthropology professor and lead organizer of the UNT event series. “It’s not just languages that are in danger of being forgotten. The cultural heritage of groups of people all over the world may be lost if we don’t make efforts to preserve them.” 

Events at the university and surrounding communities in the coming months will feature the powerful tales of individuals and groups who are working to restore their native languages and culture as well as art and films that raise awareness of indigenous communities. 

UNT has scholars across disciplines working to document, preserve and revitalize languages so they will be accessible to later generations. In the College of Information, National Science Foundation-funded researchers are examining language through the lens of technology and big data, pairing experts from linguistics and archiving. In the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Wasson, an applied anthropologist, is working with communities to develop more navigable language archives through user-centered design.

The following is a list of UNT International Year of Indigenous Languages events. Visit indigenouslanguages.unt.edu for more information. 



The series debuts with a keynote event featuring linguist, culture preservationist and MacArthur Award recipient Daryl Baldwin, who will share the inspirational story of how he revived and is helping teach his heritage language of Myaamia. Dallas-based nonprofit Healing Sacred Voices and the UNT Native American Student Association also will present on the political and societal actions throughout history that have impacted Native American culture as well as the resurgence of cultural identity through language re-discovery. 

When/Where: 3 p.m. Sept. 9 in Room 333 of the UNT University Union, 1155 Union Circle, Denton



Cheyenne and Arapaho artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds will give a talk about indigenous language issues and exhibit his art. His text-based work includes public art messages, large-scale drawings, acrylic paintings and monumental porcelain enamel on steel outdoor sculpture. His most recent art addresses injustices and current views of Native American people. 

When/Where: Reception is 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at Greater Denton Arts Council, 400 E. Hickory St., Denton; Exhibit runs Sept. 25- Oct. 5 at the Cora Stafford Gallery in the College of Visual Arts and Design building, 1201 W. Mulberry St., Denton



UNT linguistics student Anthony Zamora, who is of Tlaxcaltec descent, will lead a workshop introducing UNT students to the basics of Nahuatl, an indigenous language spoken mostly by people in central Mexico. 

When/Where: 3-5 p.m. Oct. 30 in Room 130 of UNT’s Marquis Hall, 1511 W. Mulberry St., Denton



The international Language Party movement comes to Fort Worth as UNT students Sumshot Khular and Lane Barrett, as well as guests Manu Leilani Birkmire and Amiso George, gather to share stories both in their native languages and English. 

When/Where: 10:30 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1600 Gendy St., Fort Worth



UNT’s Graduate Anthropology Student Association, the Undergraduate Anthropology Student Association and World Echoes have organized screenings of Language Healers” (Sept. 19),Edge of the Knife” (Oct. 21) and “Sami Blood” (Nov. 13).

When/Where: Screenings will be held at 2 p.m. in Room 130 of UNT’s Marquis Hall, 1511 W. Mulberry St., Denton

UNT News Service
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