Haida Past Speaks To Troubled Present (fwd)

Donald Z. Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Mon Dec 27 00:09:21 UTC 2004

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if Haida epics have been published in
the Haida language (alone or in parallel text with another language like

Don Osborn

Quoting phil cash cash <cashcash at EMAIL.ARIZONA.EDU>:

> Haida Past Speaks To Troubled Present
> By brian lynch and colin thomas
> Publish Date: 23-Dec-2004
> http://www.straight.com/content.cfm?id=7185
> Last week, B.C. poet, historian, and linguist Robert Bringhurst's
> magisterial three-volume Masterworks of the Classical Haida Mythtellers
> (Douglas & McIntyre) received the Edward Sapir Book Prize, an honour
> bestowed every two years by the U.S.-­based Society for Linguistic
> Anthropology. The award, according to the SLA's Web site, recognizes
> works that make "the most significant contribution to our understanding
> of language in society".
> Drawing on 15 years of study in the Haida language, Bringhurst created
> his English renderings of these vital epics--now widely compared in
> importance to Homer's Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh--from phonetic
> transcriptions made at the turn of the last century by an American
> anthropologist who sought out the great Haida storytellers of the time.
> As Bringhurst explained when reached by the Straight at his home on
> Quadra Island, his immersion in this work has deepened his own sense of
> the forests and ocean at the source of the stories.
> "What this kind of poetry does is, in a sense, knit the human world and
> the natural world together," he said. "Human beings are minor
> characters in these stories. The major characters are spirits of the
> landscape, plants, and animals....And after you've been soaked in those
> kinds of stories for a long period of time, just the experience of
> walking through the woods becomes different than it was. The stories
> become really attached to the place. And I think in a sense that's what
> they were always for, one of the functions that they always served: to
> knit people into the place where they live."
> Yet the Haida language, despite this great history of integrating mind
> with environment, is itself in serious danger of unravelling, with a
> mere handful of fluent speakers now remaining. Like thousands of other
> indigenous tongues on the planet, Bringhurst said, it is uniquely
> valuable and yet wholly vulnerable in a world where an ever-increasing
> majority of livelihoods are made in a small but powerful set of
> languages including English, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin.
> "Language is a part of culture that is easier to lose than other parts,
> because it doesn't translate readily into saleable objects," Bringhurst
> observed. "And yet it's like brain matter. It's filled with neurons,
> almost--with little threads that carry information from way back in the
> past, from parts of the mind that we might not know exist."

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