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.

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Howard Treadwell

Visiting Poospatuck and working with the Unkechaug Nation has been very educational in learning the history of the tribe but also in meeting the individuals that comprise it.  Without the individual voice, the whole is not complete, and vice-versa.  I had the good chance of meeting Howard Treadwell, a slam poet whose raw style captures emotions and ears from deep down, at the Unkechaug grounds.  Listen to his poem about his grandfather here, and come back for future posts from this talented artist.