Colonizing pasts, Indigenous futures: Imagining Indigenous languages beyond the present

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IMG_1537The prediction for most Indigenous languages has been extinction. However, many Indigenous languages are still with us today, including some presumed to be gone. This means that someone somewhere has imagined a future for these languages, for current language users, and for future audiences. But, as with ideas of “success,” not all Indigenous language futures are unfolding in identical ways and not all paths lead to the same end or even to their own intended end. This talk is a reflection on the various efforts that have been imagined and implemented in order to predict and project a future for the Kaska (Dene/Athabaskan) language and some of the unexpected possible futures that have emerged along the way.

Barbra A. Meek, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics, and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan

Barbra A. Meek is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics, and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Comanche citizen. Her research focuses on representations and performances of American Indian languages and speech, practically and theoretically. Much of her scholarship has focused on language endangerment and revitalization, having worked with First Nations in the Yukon Territory, Canada, on various aboriginal language projects since 1998. Her book, We Are Our Language: An Ethnography of Language Revitalization in a Northern Athabaskan Community (2010, University of Arizona Press) details this research and offers a socially grounded model for language revitalization. She continues to work with Kaska language teachers and advocates in their efforts to envision a future for the Kaska language. Her current book project is an edited volume with Paul Kroskrity on Native American publics and linguistic futures under contract with Routledge.

Location & Timing

11:30am-1:00pm, Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall, First Nations Longhouse
1985 West Mall

Professor Meek’s lecture will begin at 11:30am. A free catered lunch will follow her talk at 1pm for those who register online: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/colonizing-pasts-indigenous-futures-imagining-indigenous-languages-beyond-the-present-tickets-22077752151

For the event poster, click here.


The Museum of Anthropology, the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program, the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program, the Department of Linguistics, and the Department of Anthropology present a new lecture series supported by the Dean of Arts, and in partnership with the First Nations House of Learning and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, to spark a conversation about the futures of Indigenous languages in the 21st century.

Future Speakers” highlights both the struggles and the successes of Indigenous language revitalization and looks to a future where these languages are not only spoken, but thrive. The Museum of Anthropology, the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program, the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program, the Department of Linguistics, and the Department of Anthropology present a new lecture series supported by the Dean of Arts, and in partnership with the First Nations House of Learning and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, to spark a conversation about the futures of Indigenous languages in the 21st century.