Meet Susan Gehr, the host of the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account for June 6-12

Photo provided by Susan Gehr

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, Native American and First Nations language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of Native American and First Nations languages. This profile post is about Susan Gehr (@vurayav) and what she plans to discuss during her week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

I’m Karuk from the villages of Athithuufvunupma and Ináam, near the town of Happy Camp, California. I started learning my language in 1992. My teachers encouraged me to start teaching, and I was the first teacher of Karuk in the Native Languages Program at Hoopa Valley High School. I earned my master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Oregon because I wanted to learn how to read the linguistic works written on Karuk. I have a second masters degree in library and information science because I wanted to get answers to my questions about long term access to the language documentation work on Karuk.

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

We have maybe six first-language speakers of Karuk and several dozen second-language learners. We have a very robust online dictionary with audio, thanks to Andrew Garrett, Line Mikkelsen, and everyone else at the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, of the University of California at Berkeley. We have a couple of fairly active Facebook groups of speakers. Several of us second-language learners have made short movies in Karuk, or online language lessons. Dozens of Karuk speakers and learners have been through the Master-Apprentice Program thanks to the efforts of the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Learning Survival.

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account?

During the week that I manage the @NativeLangsTech account I’ll focus on how Karuk language teachers and learners have used technology in support of language documentation and revitalization over the years. My interests also range to archives, memes, linguistics, and CoLang, the Institute for Collaborative Language Research.

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

My main motivation for my digital activism is having the opportunity to practice language learning and use no matter where I am. My dream for Karuk is that the current small but mighty generation of Karuk language learners and speakers have a new generation of motivated learners and speaks to pass the language forward to.

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