Pomona College will present the "Indigenous Language Symposium" on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1:45 p.m.-6 p.m. in Rose Hills Theatre (Smith Campus Center, 170 E. Sixth St., Claremont), bringing together community language activists and linguists who are working towards the revitalization of Native American languages.

The speakers, who are from Pomona College, Pitzer College and Native American tribes, will describe seven different programs—four in California and three in Mesoamerica—explaining why language maintenance is of crucial importance to Native communities. Each speaker will focus on their specific language revitalization experiences and will highlight successes they have had with language programs, and discuss obstacles to maintaining indigenous languages in the face of global and local forces that threaten to eradicate them.

"Language revitalization is especially important for Native American tribes because of the way that their languages were essentially stolen from them in their history. In the U.S., many Native children were sent to boarding schools where they were forced to assimilate, and they were punished if they were caught speaking their native language," says Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science Mary Paster. She notes that this is recent history, as some of these people are still alive today and still struggle with the shame that they were taught to associate with their native language.

"It takes a lot of courage especially for older people to try and reclaim their language, and they do it because it connects them to their tribe and their ancestors. A lot of other tribe members who don't speak the language may still know some words or songs, and it's a wonderful moment for a person to finally learn the meaning of words and songs that they've known since childhood. It allows them to deepen their understanding of their own culture," Paster says.

The schedule of the symposium is as follows:

  • 1:45-1:55 p.m.: Performance: Ohlone Bear Clan Drummers
  • 1:55-2:00 p.m.: Opening Remarks: Scott Scoggins (Pomona & Pitzer College)
  • 2:00-2:30 p.m.: Julia Bogany (Tongva tribe)
  • 2:30-3:00 p.m.: Fern Baugus (Dene tribe)
  • 3:00-3:20 p.m.: Mary Paster and Rodrigo Ranero (Pomona College; Rumsen tribe)
  • 3:20-3:50 p.m.: Nana Juliana (Nahuat tribe)
  • 3:50-4:10 p.m.: Break
  • 4:10-4:30 p.m.: Rodrigo Ranero (Pomona College; Xinka tribe)
  • 4:30-4:50 p.m.: Adele Eslinger (Pomona College & Claremont McKenna College; Yanesha tribe)
  • 4:50-5:20 p.m.: Deborah Sanchez (Chumash tribe)
  • 5:20-5:25 p.m.: Closing Remarks: Scott Scoggins and Mary Paster
  • 5:25-6:00 p.m.: Reception

The symposium is sponsored by the Draper Center and Pomona College's Linguistics and Cognitive Science Department. 

For more information, email: scott.scoggins@pomona.edu.