Thursday, January 31, 2008

NAT: Koasati Language Archiving

National Anthropological Archives and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana Collaborate on Language Digitization Project

The National Anthropological Archives and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana are collaborating on a project to digitize more than 11,000 pages of Koasati (the Coushatta tribal language) manuscripts in the archives. The project is partially supported by a Documenting Endangered Languages grant awarded to the Coushattas by the National Science Foundation in 2007. Digital surrogates of the collection will be available through SIRIS, the Smithsonian's online catalog, as well as in the Coushatta Heritage Center that the Tribal Council is building in Allen Parish, Louisiana, to preserve its heritage and revitalize its language.

"The Heritage Center will use state-of-the-art technology to preserve the Coushatta Tribe's native language for future generations," said Dr. Linda Langley, a research professor in anthropology at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. Working with Dr. Langley on the Koasati language project is her husband, Bertney Langley, a native Koasati speaker, and Dr. Jay Precht, a post-doctoral research associate who recently received his Ph.D. in history from Arizona State University after completing his dissertation on the 20th century history of the Coushatta Tribe.

Some of the materials being developed are books, tapes, computer games and a "talking" audio-dictionary. The Tribe is also locating and digitizing photographs, maps, explorers’ accounts, correspondence and other records related to their history and culture. Utilizing these materials, Dr. Langley said the Tribe will be able to develop Koasati history and language booklets, which can be used in local schools, as well as in the community and online, to teach the history and culture of the tribe. She said these efforts would provide a model for other communities initiating similar projects.

"Language is power," said Dr. Langley. "A culture must have language to survive.” Kevin Sickey, the Tribal Chairman, put it another way: "We need to draw strength from our past, while doing everything we can to preserve our future. Our partnership with the National Anthropological Archives provides us with an important opportunity for achieving our overall project goals.” This concept is echoed in the slogan of the Koasati Language Committee, which states: “Skon-na-ka-than-nan Koasati: Koasati Na-thi-hil-kah We Must Not Lose Our Koasati Language: We Must All Speak Koasati.”

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