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Date: Sun, 05 Sep 1999 14:28:09 +0700
From: Matthew McDaniel <akha at loxinfo.co.th>
Organization: The Akha Heritage Foundation
To: Endangered Languages Linguist list
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Subject: ELL: [Fwd: [sovernspeakout] 'Reburial of 500 Huron', evidence of
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A note on linguistics that first nations are discussing as they dig
their way out from under the centuries.
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Date: Sat, 04 Sep 1999 15:05:40 -0400
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To: Public Policy and First Nations Relations <FNR_PUBPOL at YorkU.CA>,
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Subject: [sovernspeakout] 'Reburial of 500 Huron', evidence of continuing
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Most striking to me about this story was the racism embedded in
its headline, "Reburial of 500 Huron".
The Oxford Companion to the English Language and the Cambridge
Encyclopedia of the English Language both refer to the use of the
singular "Huron" as "zero plural".
The Zero Plural is used when one wants to speak only of abstract
categories without reference to any individuation which might
occur within the category. Hence, the term is most commonly used
in hunting and fishing. "I am hunting rabbit today." "I am
fishing for pike."
It is striking that the Zero Plural is used today in reference to
human beings only in regard to First Nations (aka "tribal
peoples"). One no longer hears reference to "the Canadian eats
heartily" as though all Canadians ate the same.
One major reference case study of this construction is entitled
"The construction of 'the Jew' in English literature from 1875 to
1945". Very few Jews speak that way about ourselves any longer.
Those who do -- such as the author of the 1950s book "The Jew in
American sports" -- use the colonial language because they are
trying to prove to the dominant culture that we are capable of
running, jumping and throwing. No individuation is expressed or
Pouning on a picky little singular construction may seem picky.
But in the course of my doctoral studies on "the public emergence
of the vocabulary of First Nations' autonomy" I have become
convinced that there are a series of grammatical constructions
which help to embed racism into the English language and that the
Zero Plural is foremost among these.
Those who do find this point too picayune might try listening for
instances in which the Zero Plural is used by people speaking
about their own culture.
Then they might consider Rabbi Hillel's injunction, "That which
is hateful to you do not do unto others."
Yours for an Equitable english,
kola_usa at YAHOO.COM wrote:
> <+>=<+>KOLA Newslist<+>=<+>
> August 27, 1999
> After 50 years, peace comes to the souls of 500 Huron --
> ROM gives back bones archeologists dug up in 1947
> By Jim Wilkes - Toronto Star Staff Reporter
> PERKINSFIELD - For the first time in more than 360 years,
> Huron Indians are gathering here to bury their dead.
> Cloaked in the smoke of burning sage and sweetgrass, the
> bones of at least 500 Huron Indians will be gently lowered
> into a gaping hole in the woods near this Midland-area
> They've been carted back to the burial pit into which they
> were first thrown in 1636 - with ceremony, dignity and
> prayers - - and from which they were unceremoniously dug by
> archeologists more than half a century ago.
> For hundreds of descendants gathering here today to mark
> the 350th anniversary of the Hurons being driven from the
> Penetang peninsula by warring Iroquois, it closes a
> symbolic circle of separation and sorrow.
> For Michel Gros-Louis, a full-blooded Indian and kin to
> ancient tribal chiefs, it marks the end of a personal quest
> to bring his forebears home.
> "It has been my sacred duty," says Gros-Louis, who has
> spearheaded the campaign to repatriate the remains. "I
> believe my ancestors have asked me to give them rest,
> to give them peace."
> Much more than they've had since Royal Ontario Museum
> archeologists unearthed them in 1947 and 1948, to be
> stored at the University of Toronto and studied by
> students. Much more than Gros-Louis thought possible when
> he first visited the pit - marked only by a hand-carved
> wood sign by the side of the road - with his father 25
> years ago.
> Gros-Louis, 44, who lives on the Wendake First Nation
> reserve north of Quebec city, formally asked the museum in
> 1997 to relinquish the bones, the largest collection of
> human remains it owns.
> Although none has ever been displayed, the ROM agreed last
> year - in a spirit of sensitivity to native culture - to
> return the remains and has been working out the details
> ever since.
> Sunday's ritual reburial at nearby Ossossane, 17th century
> capital of the Huron-Wendat nation, coincides with a
> weekend gathering of what's left of the Wendat people to
> mark their ancestors' dispersal more than three centuries
> Hundreds of Wendat from Canada and the United States -
> where they're called Wyandot - will symbolically rejoin
> the branches of their nation with ashes from ceremonial
> fires in Quebec, Oklahoma and Kansas. Some of this
> weekend's events will take place at Sainte-Marie-Among-The-
> Hurons, the reconstructed Jesuit fort on the outskirts of
> Midland that was burned to the ground in 1649 when
> surviving missionaries and Hurons fled.
> But for many, the heart of the weekend revolves around the
> 300 boxes of bones shipped up from Toronto by truck yesterday after a brief
private prayer ceremony at the ROM.
> Sunday's ceremony at the burial pit, or ossuary, will also
> be private. Beaver pelts will be placed inside the pit
> and, after sage and sweetgrass are burned to purify the
> site, the bones will be carefully placed inside.
> It's a twist on tradition in which Hurons would toss the
> bones into the communal hole.
> "It is important to return our people to their rightful
> resting place. According to our customs, the most horrible
> crime is to open a grave," Gros-Louis says. "We won't have
> any future if we don't respect our past."
> And what a storied past it is.
> Dozens of Huron villages dotted the thumb of land that
> protrudes into Georgian Bay near Midland, long before the
> French established Ontario's first European community at
> Sainte-Marie in 1639.
> When Hurons died, they were buried in temporary graves.
> Then, every 10 or 15 years, the graves were dug up, and
> the bones were collected and carried to a central place
> where many communities gathered for what they called the
> Feast of the Dead.
> The long-dead Hurons were to spend eternity with the
> spirits. But then modern scientists arrived with picks and
> Along with handing over the Huron bones to their
> descendants, the ROM this week deeded over the land
> surrounding the burial pit, which it bought in 1946, to
> the Wendats.
> In 1982, the ossuary at Ossossane - along County Road 6
> between Wyevale and Perkinsfield - was designated to be of
> national interest and will now become a protected native
> "The ROM, in repatriating this collection, is just
> following what we feel is the proper change of attitude
> towards the requests of indigenous peoples," says Mima
> Kapches, head of the ROM's anthropology department.
> For Gros-Louis, it is much simpler. "Our people can finally
> rest," he says. "After so many years, their souls will be
> at peace."
> if you want to be removed from the KOLA
> Email Newslist, just send us a message with
> "unsub" in the subject or text body
Michael W. Posluns,
The Still Waters Group,
First Nations Relations & Public Policy
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Canadian parliamentary debates compiled by topics and bills.
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