Hartford Courant, February 21, 2006
Singer and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie highlights a three-day conference on "Revitalizing Algonquian Languages" that will begin Wednesday and is sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
The conference, which takes place at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center on the tribal reservation near Ledyard, features more than two dozen presenters from Indian tribes and academia, as well as the screening of the PBS documentary "The Linguists."
Sainte-Marie, a Cree Indian whose Cradleboard Teaching Project educates schoolchildren about native culture and history, will appear Thursday at 3:30 p.m. In addition to her recording and television career, Sainte-Marie has a doctorate in fine arts from the University of Massachusetts.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Secretary Charlene Jones said the 3-year-old conference brings together "tribal representatives, scholars and writers from across the continent on this crucial subject. Each conference has helped to advance the understanding of the strength that tribal languages bring to our living cultures."
The museum owns two essential documents in studying lost native language — early editions of a Bible translated into an Algonquian dialect. Museum research director Kevin McBride said other tribes have recovered languages no longer spoken, but it requires a significant commitment from the tribal community.
Reviving a language can provide immense insight into a tribe's history, he said. "The language of a people really helps inform you about many things about them," McBride said.
There are no living fluent speakers of the Algonquian dialects once spoken by Indians in Connecticut, but New England tribes are working to revive the languages. Jessie Little Doe Baird, a Mashpee Wampanoag tribal member and co-founder of the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project, will speak Wednesday at 9 a.m. about efforts to revive the Wampanoag dialect.
The fee for the three-day conference is $125, $85 for students and senior citizens, including breakfast and lunch each day. For more information, contact 860-396-2167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.