Between 3-5 March 2017, Wik-Alken/Ngatharr, Wik-Ngathan, Guugu Yimidhirr and Mpakwithi Ancestral Language Action Teams facilitated by Jan Goetesson, Xavier Barker and Louise Ashmore presented papers on their ancestral language revitalisation projects at the 5th International Conference for Language Documentation and Conservation in Hawaii. The presentations were well received – streamed live and are available on the PLC facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PamaLanguageCentre/.
Before the conference the ALATS attended site visits to successful language nests on Hilo Island, which show that without a doubt, with good will and appropriate support, fragile languages can be revived and that our languages can form keys to a strong and revitalised sense of national and self worth. The trip was a profound and inspiring experience, followed by the ALATs many friends across Australia and in Cape York Peninsula.
At ICLDC5 First Nations from all over the world met to learn from each other about how they are all solving the same problem. The Hawai’ians have developed a system in which it is possible for a person to travel from womb to tomb without ever having spoken the language of their occupier, picking up a PhD along the way if they choose.
Inspirational stuff. Some confident young adults and highly capable and committed teachers – indigenous and non-indigenous are working together to make this happen.
Participating in Conferences and cultural intercourses like these are of great importance to First Nations who might otherwise not learn that it is not only possible to maintain their languages and culture alongside those of the dominant group but also that it is possible for the dominant groups to also adopt a sense of obligation and enthusiasm about becoming bi-cultural and bi-lingual and to better understand the First Nations they occupy.
It was an interesting cultural exchange for the Guugu Yimidhirr: they are the owners of the land where Cook sought refuge with his crippled ship in 1770 and engaged in one of the first inter-continental exchanges between Europe and Australia. In 1779, with a crippled ship, he attempted to kidnap the island of Hawai’s’s ruling chief. He never left this island!
Vaw Hawai’i! Laeni O’ahu panjiki, bwi kunu anganhama Sydney.
Goodbye Hawai’i! Finished walkabout O’ahu so now we return to Sydney. (Mpakwithi)