[lg policy] Idaho: Coeur d'Alene Tribe Language Speaker Honored

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 22 01:20:34 UTC 2009

Coeur d'Alene Tribe Language Speaker Honored

WORLEY, Idaho (AP) — Snchitsu'umshtsn.

It is the language of the Coeur d'Alene [1] Tribe, a dying tongue
which only a handful of people still speak. But it is the language
which first titled the surrounding mountains, lakes, and rivers of
North Idaho, a language tied to the history of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe
as forever as the singing voices or beats of the drum. And it is the
language Felix Aripa would write across the maps to name the pictured
landscape hanging on the walls around buildings while he lived on the

Making Sure 'Our Lands Have Our Names'

"I want to make sure our lands have our names on them," Aripa would
explain when the youth would ask him what he was doing. "It is how we
can remember." As one of the last several fluent speakers of the
language, the Tribe elder, World War II veteran and longtime land and
wildlife preservationist was honored Sept. 9 during his birthday party
at the Longhouse in Worley. It was his 86th birthday, according to his
birth certificate, but 89th according to the Tribe. Years aside,
nearly 300 people came to thank him. "I'm really not accustomed to
birthday parties like this," Aripa said following the ceremony. "But
for people to come out and enjoy me brings out the memories of

A Sense of Ownership and Belonging

"Uncle Felix," as he was called by many on the reservation, worked to
spread the Tribe's culture and history. After he returned to the
reservation from working for the roads department on the Warm Springs
Reservation [2] in Oregon, Aripa volunteered his time to the Tribe by
teaching the language and guiding tours to share the names and
locations of sacred grounds around his home. He surveyed land and
roads for the Tribe and worked with the state of Idaho ensuring road
construction didn't interfere with fish and wildlife habitats.

"It is something that belongs to us," Aripa said of his devotion to
the land. "It is something we call home, and where we belong."

His Own Name Will Live on

His name in both languages will now grace the fishery building in
Plummer — The Felix Aripa (shi'ttsin) building. And he was
awarded the Tribe's Excellence Award, a monthly award Tribe Chairman
Chief Allan said Aripa could have won every month.

"It's in our elders we find our anchor," said Dave Matheson. "If it
weren't for them we'd leave our culture."

"He's our protector of this sacred life," Marlene Sproul said.

And when the crowd stood to listen to the sound of the Tribe's
drummers singing, Aripa reflected again on a history he's devoted to

"When I hear the drummers, the singers and that singing, that reminds
me of our elders and of our way of saying thanks to the Almighty," he
said at the ceremony's conclusion. "That drum is our thanks for

Copyright © 2009 Reznet.
Reznet is a project of The University of Montana School of Journalism.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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