Associate professor of political science and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative Mneesha Gellman describes the importance of teaching indigenous languages in public schools, citing her research in northern California’s Humboldt County with the Yurok language.
Gellman recently published the book “Indigenous Language Politics in the Schoolroom: Cultural Survival in Mexico and the United States.”
From The Conversation:
Bringing languages like Yurok into schools that are still, as historian Donald Yacovone points out, dominated by white supremacist content, does not in and of itself undo the effects of colonization. Getting rid of curricula that teach the Doctrine of Discovery – the notion that colonizers “discovered” the Americas and had a legal right to it – is a long-term process. But placing Native American languages into public schools both affirms the validity of Indigenous cultural knowledge and also asserts the contemporary existence of Native people at the same time. It is a place to start.
Gellman also spoke to New Zealand’s Newshub program about the College’s Emerson Prison Initiative, of which she is the director. New Zealand has very low literacy rates in prison populations.