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Meet the team from the Myaamia Center, the host of the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account for July 18-24

Kristina Fox (left), George Ironstrack (right). Photo provided by the Myaamia Center.

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 the Myaamia Center (@MyaamiaCenter) and what they plans to discuss during their week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

The Myaamia Center is a Miami Tribe of Oklahoma initiative located within an academic setting that serves the needs of the Myaamia people, Miami University, and partner communities through research, education, and outreach that promote Myaamia language, culture, knowledge, and values. It is directly supported by the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University. Visit myaamiacenter.org for more information.

The Myaamia Center also serves as an institutional home for the National Breath of Life Institute for Indigenous Languages (NBoL). NBoL works with endangered language communities to educate them about methods in archive-based research for communities who have either lost their speakers or are in need of access to language archives. Currently, NBoL is offering two training workshops on the Indigenous Languages Digital Archive (ILDA). ILDA allows for the organization, storage, retrieval, and analysis of digitized archival linguistic materials, and associated data, for the purpose of informing language revitalization and educational efforts by tribal communities. The first of these workshops will be held in July of 2019 at the Myaamia Center at Miami University and a second one in 2020 will be hosted at the Northwest Indigneous Language Institute at the University of Oregon. Both workshops are supported in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Advancement Grant Level III (HAA-261218-18). Visit nationalbreathoflife.org for more information.

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

Myaamiaataweenki ‘the Miami Language’ is being revitalized from documentation after a period of dormancy during the mid 20th century. Community revitalization efforts began in the 1990s. We now have hundreds of Myaamia people using language on a daily basis as a result of a multi-faceted effort that includes community programs, college level courses, online support, and self-directed learning opportunities. This effort, commonly referred to as Myaamiaki Eemamwiciki, received Honors at the 2018 Honoring Nations Awards and has produced numerous printed and digital resources that can be found on the Myaamia Center’s website.

In addition to reaching our widespread community through social media, the Myaamia Center created and maintains a “talking dictionary,” Myaamiaatawaakani, that is one of the primary language learning resources for Myaamiaataweenki ‘the Miami Language’. In order to meet the ongoing research needs necessary for continued revitalization activities from documentation, the Myaamia Center partnered with Miami University’s Computer Science and Engineering program to create the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive (MIDA). MIDA became the model for creating ILDA. Both MIDA and Myaamiaatawaakani ‘online dictionary’ share analysed data in order to serve both research and educational needs independently. Currently, there are over 2,800 entries in Myaamiaatawaakani and nearly 60,000 entries in MIDA.

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

Over the course of the week, we will be focusing on the following topics:

  • What is the Myaamia Center?
  • What is National Breath of Life (NBoL)?
  • What is the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive (MIDA) and how does that impact Myaamiaataweenki ‘the Miami Language’?
  • What is the Indigenous Language Digital Archive (ILDA)?

Since this takeover also coincides with the NBoL workshop at the Myaamia Center at Miami University, we will also be sharing information from the event and from the workshop participants.

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

Our primary motivation is to utilize technology to reach our diasporic community in order to support language and cultural learning opportunities. To achieve this objective, creating digital pathways to share learning resources is a necessity. MIDA serves as a foundation for this and was developed to consolidate all of our language archival resources in one place to advance research and analysis that support community based revitalization goals. Continued development of MIDA will also allow us to increase its utility for other digital learning resources, such as Myaamiaatawaakani ‘online dictionary’, Mahkihkiwa ‘Ethnobotanical Database’, and Aacimwahkionkonci ‘Interactive Map of Myaamia Lands’.

From our community based experiences over the last 20 years, we have reached a place in our revitalization effort where we can begin sharing resources, approaches, and methodologies with other communities engaged in archive-based language revitalization. We do this through the National Breath of Life Institute where we engage in broader revitalization activities to support the growing number of tribal communities needing to access, organize and utilize important archival materials for community directed language revitalization goals. The distribution of the Indigenous Languages Digital Archive (ILDA) is the first step in an ongoing process to assist tribes in capacity building for revitalization through NBoL.

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