A New Hope “in the Navajo language
Language: taking a centuries-old language far, far into the future
Many Indigenous speakers are striving to ensure that the next generation preserves dine in an effort to revitalize dying Indigenous languages. Part of this is involving young people in learning the language and starting conversations between speakers of all ages.
This is what led Wheeler to “Star Wars”.
The film’s appeal spans generations, and the translation has sparked conversations about the tenacity of the Navajo language.
âIt reopens a safe dialogue for people who don’t speak Navajo and want to learn Navajo. This reopens the dialogue for fluent speakers, âsaid Manny Wheeler.
After decades of language degradation in the residential schools that Indigenous children were forced to attend for the first time in the 1860s and further difficulties in sustaining language education and the engagement of younger generations, many Indigenous languages are either endangered or extinct.
Once the Civilization Fund Act was enacted in 1819, the federal government began enacting assimilation policies to “civilize” Indigenous peoples, one of whom established residential schools to westernize Indigenous children. This meant punishing Indigenous children if they spoke their own language instead of English.
From 1860 to 1978, tens of thousands of children from Native American communities attended schools, where They had known âPhysical, sexual, cultural and spiritual abuse and neglect,â according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.
While not all Indigenous children were sent to residential school, the practice has resulted in generations of people with little or no connection to their mother tongue.
âThis is where the bond was severed,â Wheeler said.
The Navajo language is traditionally transmitted orally. But, as less and less of the population retained and shared the language, native speakers were rapidly declining.
âWe learned it from our parents who speak to us in Navajo, our grandparents speak to us in Navajo,â Yazzie said. âBut since the generations do not speak it, how will the language be transmitted?
After voicing Leia, Yazzie was inspired. She started creating short language learning videos, which she posts on TIC Tac alongside the Star War cosplay and actor videos in DinÃ©.
âI started using my role as Princess Leia as a path because this is how people know me, this is how people recognize me,â Yazzie said. “Now that I have your attention, let me teach you something.”
Yazzie publishes basic information, such as numbers and colors, and supports translation requests from subscribers. It makes a difference, she says. Young and old alike pair up his videos and follow his short lessons.
In a video, she takes on the rainbow. Red is “lichxii ‘” and blue is “dootl’izh”.
She said that TikTok’s short, digestible format makes it easier to retain information and attention. It fills a gap for oral teaching and supplements it with a short written and oral communication.
Its ultimate goal is to involve people in the language, even if it is only for a few moments.
âIt’s 60 seconds,â Yazzie said. “It’s not like you have to sit there for an hour-long lesson.”
Art: Aboriginal artists featured in “The force is with our people”
The aura around the film has extended far beyond the premiere.
Tony Thibodeau, of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, first saw the dubbed film at Indigenous Comic-Con in 2016.
He, like Wheeler, recognized his potential.
Over the next three years, Thibodeau interviewed Navajo artists inspired by “Star Wars” and organized an exhibition at the museum – “The force is with our people”.
The exhibition, which opened in October 2019, featured works by 24 Indigenous artists that reflect a ‘Star Wars’ influence. Pieces – some of which remain today – included in the gallery included a Hopi R2D2, Hongeva-Camarillo’s golden C3PO cosplay, and an intricately designed Darth Vader helmet.
Thibodeau discovered that “Star Wars” resonates with Indigenous artists through three themes that link Navajo culture to a film with a lasting impact on pop culture.
The first is the Force. In Navajo teachings and oral traditions, balance and harmony remain recurring themes. In “Star Wars” much of the plot concerns the interactions of the dark side with the light side.
Thibodeau also noted that the anti-imperialist themes of the artwork resonated throughout the plot of the film franchise.
âIt is literal resistance to military imperialism, resistance to Empire,â he said. âIt resonates with a lot of Indigenous people if you look at the history between Western expansion, colonialism and Western imperialism. “
The third parallel is the similarity between the landscape of the indigenous lands and the relief of the planet. Tatooine.
Thibodeau mentioned one of the artists in the show, Ryan Singer, who remembers playing with âStar Warsâ toys in his grandmother’s house. His backyard stretched out into a vast desert, leaving Singer to feel like he was on the outskirts of the Great Carkoon Pit.
A small portion of the exhibit is still on display – the Hopi R2D2s, DinÃ© interpretations of characters in a comic book style, and Hongeva-Camarillo’s C3PO cosplay. It is important to emphasize to visitors that indigenous peoples and indigenous cultures are not frozen in time, he said.
âYou can go back and look at what this culture looked like 50 years ago, 100 years ago, but I think it’s also important to present aspects of what this culture looks like today,â did he declare. âNative people are as influenced by popular culture as anyone else. “