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Designing pedagogy from Cherokee language and ecological documentation

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Title: Designing pedagogy from Cherokee language and ecological documentation
Authors: Fitzgerald, Colleen
Boney, Jr., Roy
Caña, Vicki
Crawler, David
Ross, Jr. John
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: Documenting traditional ecological knowledge in indigenous languages is urgently needed, seen in more widely available training options, such as master classes in folk taxonomy and ethnobotany at venues like ICLDC, CoLang, and other venues. Here we present a collaborative project to create a set of videos documenting Cherokee language and ecological knowledge. Multiple 'by-products' result. Training, curriculum creation, and the documentation itself are all positive outcomes stemming from our academic-tribal partnership, the differing strengths of our teams, and our focus on creating versatile documentary products. The model is useful for other community contexts, especially in maximizing the uses of documentation and its applications.

Our partnership consists of Cherokee Nation's vigorous Language Program and Natural Resources Department with the University of Texas at Arlington, whose strengths lie in documentation, revitalization, and indigenous language service projects. Importantly, Cherokee Nation prioritizes language revitalization and the documentation of ethnobotanical and ecological knowledge (Cherokee Nation, 2010).

We proceeded as follows. The Cherokee Language Program publicized the project and recruited fluent speakers with specialized knowledge on plants and nature. UTA students then documented language and ecological knowledge in a Field Methods course, recording approximately three hours of video in Cherokee onsite in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Students processed and edited the video, and prepared meta-documentation. With fluent speakers from the Language Program, they are transcribing and translating the Cherokee videos.

By creating a curriculum unit that draws on regional strengths in Traditional Ecological Knowledge, this project provides a ready-made unit for use by a variety of instructors. Technology like ELAN can create subtitled language videos on traditional uses of plants uploadable to Cherokee Language Program's YouTube channel, for widespread community use, whether by immersion school students, young adults studying Cherokee at Northeastern State University or wider audiences within Cherokee Nation or other universities. Many of the recordings are segmented as free-standing shorter videos, facilitating their usefulness for multiple purposes. Video also means it is possible to have online delivery of the unit as a course accompaniment. Because the videos include spontaneous Cherokee educational narratives, anecdotes and conversation, they have additional, significant value.

Ultimately, both the technical training on video and the actual documentation with this ecological focus increases both newly-trained field linguists and Cherokee language and scientific resources. Our project is also replicable by others needing to maximize resources and to create versatile documentation in language and traditional ecological knowledge.

Cherokee Natural Resources Department. 2010. The Wild Plants of the Cherokee Nation. Tahlequah, OK: Cherokee Nation.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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