On the Importance of Indigenous Language Revitalization in Sustaining Sacred Relationship with Nature in Oaxaca, Mexico

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Goebel, Sophia
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This project explores the ways in which language is organized by distinct cultural values surrounding human relationship with nature. In particular, many indigenous languages demonstrate the capacity for mutually beneficial relationships of respect with all non-human life, whereas many of the languages of the colonial forces of the world do not, offering instead an arrangement of grammar that reflects relationships of domination and exploitation. As a student of a number of indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, I was fortunate to participate in conversations about the complexities of this investigation with people who know, far more than I ever will, the truths of speaking a language that holds respect for nature and the consequences of contact with those that do not. I begin with an examination of the theoretical fibers that link language and culture, culture and land, land and language. Central to this work is a short linguistic analysis of some of the grammatical organization of the indigenous language of Zapotec that delves into exactly how a relationship of care, rather than subjugation, manifests in the actual rules of a language. Then, I address the impending threat of global language loss along with fragments of the colonial history of Mexico that imperiled her indigenous languages. Specifically, this project addresses the role of education as both a tool of empire and platform for resistance and the assertion of cultural rights. Language revitalization programs, fomented by organizations of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities and the state’s robust education movements, are a primary tool for beginning to heal some of the damage wrought by colonial schooling. As a culmination of this work, I offer a workshop proposal that would aim to explore place names (one aspect of the connection between language and land) with young indigenous students. This is as an exercise in praxis and a form of service to the organizations that helped me throughout the development of this project. In the face of ongoing colonial language suppression and increased pressure towards a globalized, unified culture of capitalism, language revitalization projects that nurture and sustain indigenous languages are an integral part of the right to maintain sacred cultural connection with land and bequeath that connection to the future.
79 p.
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