Unkechaug and Shinnecock Language Revival Project

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation, left, and Howard Treadwell, a researcher and tribal member, at the Unkechaug reservation in Mastic, N.Y. Photo: Doug Kuntz for The New York Times

For nearly 200 years very few people, if any, have listened to or spoken the tongues native to the Unkechaug and Shinnecock Long Island Indian Nations.  Now the two Indian nations and Stony Brook University have initiated a joint project to revive these forgotten tongues.

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation emphasizes the integral importance of tribal members understanding their culture, past and present, “When our children study their own language and culture, they perform better academically.  They have a core foundation to rely on.”

By providing tribal records, religious documents, deeds and legal transactions, as well as tapes of tribal members speaking in the 1940’s, Chief Wallace hopes to piece together these lost tongues.  Chief Wallace is not alone in his efforts and has attracted the younger Unkechaug generation to the project.  Unkechaug member Howard Treadwell, 24, will participate in the Long Island effort while doing graduate work at the University of Arizona.  Treadwell has a degree in linguistics from Stony Brook University.

For the full New York Times article please click here.

2 Responses

  1. I actually found this blog via the NYT article, but I am very excited to read about the Unkechaug and Shinnecock language revitalization project. I grew up in Stony Brook, and was always disappointed that there was so little information available about the region’s native languages.

    Nowadays, I’m a professor/research at a language and culture department at small university in Colombia, South America; much of the department’s work involves teaching English or training English teachers, but I am pleased to say that I’m just starting a project in alliance with the Colombian Ministry of Culture to train speakers of indigenous languages in language teaching methodologies, to help strengthen these languages within native communities here and to teach them to others. Needless to say, though the available resources demand that we start by focusing on still living language communities, but revitalization projects similar to that being undertaken by the Unkechaug and Shinnecock (and other) nations are something we would hope to work on when we can … some day!

    So, I would definitely look forward to reading more about the Unkechaug and Shinnecock revitalization project — partially because perhaps at last I will learn something about the languages native to the region where I grew up, and partially for guidance and inspiration for the work here in South America!

    • Good evening Carl!

      Thank you for you interest in the article. I am sorry to be getting back to you so late but I’ve had a few other projects going on and things have been busy.

      I help the Unkechaug with their website and blog entries but the coordinators of the revitalization project are Harry Wallace and Howard Treadwell. If there’s anything in specific that you would like to know about their project I can contact the tribal members and maybe you can discuss this further with them.

      South America huh? Which indigenous cultures are you helping in particular? Which language? I think keeping and understanding native languages is very important–good luck with all your work.

      You can email me at jkwritingservices@gmail.com if you have further questions.


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