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.


Unkechaug U.S. Census 2010, 8nkowa!

I recently visited the Poospatuck Reservation on Long Island and met with tribal council member Mary Treadwell.  After a nice lunch, Ms. Treadwell showed me around the Poospatuck Reservation and briefed me on history and development of the Unkechaug Nation.

Mary’s commitment to the Nation’s development was obvious in the projects she described to me were in the works.  After showing me the new Unkechaug office we went through some boxes in which there were shirts, sweaters, hats, pens all marked and ready for the Census 2010.

The Census 2010 is a big project because it not only employs members but it is also a larger part of making the voices of Native American’s heard and counted.  She presented me with these gifts which I accept gratefully.  Thank you Mary!

We also spoke in length about the Unkechaug Language revitalization project (the red shirt).  Keeping and developing the Unkechaug language is also a big project because language defines culture.  She in partnership with local writers and colleges have begun this project in hopes of linking the history of the tribe with the present members.  8nkowa!