October 26, 2009

Falmouth language summit (Day 2)

Day 2 of my trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Falmouth Institute's Native Language Preservation Summit. (Here's my report for Day 1.)


I got up at the ungodly hour of 5 am to practice my speech. It was the first time I'd gone through the whole thing. Better late than never.

Since the Falmouth Institute didn't give us a schedule, I showed up at the event 8 am. I figured there'd be a lot of drinking coffee, eating pastries (actually muffins), and sitting around with strangers until 9 am. But this could've been the rare conference that actually starts at 8:00 or 8:30 am, so I couldn't take a chance and be late.

There were about 30 attendees. Another 15 or so badges went unclaimed. The people were mostly older women, with only 3-4 people under 40.

Curiously, I think of the youngsters as my peers, but I'm probably older than several of the "old" women. Yikes.

Dr. Jon Allan Reyhner gave the keynote address. It was an overview of 20th century Indian history: the policies of assimilation and termination, and the need for language and culture to preserve Indian nations. It was okay, but probably nothing the attendees didn't know already.

Perhaps the most interesting thing he said was that he spoke in Canada and called the Natives there "Indians" rather than First Nations people. They reacted as if he'd called them the N-word. I've heard Canadians disapprove of or scorn the word "Indians," but this is the strongest reaction I've come across.

Too bad American Indians prefer the term "Indians" and outnumber Canadian Indians by 2-1 or 3-1. Given America's media dominance, there's no way Canada will win this war of words.

The next sessions didn't look that interesting, so I left to do some exploring and photographing. I got a van ride to Fort McDowell's golf course, then walked to the bridge, the highway, down to the casino entrance, and back to the hotel. All in my good clothes! Fortunately the day wasn't too hot and a breeze was blowing.


My speech was the first one after lunch. The woman who organized the summit operated my presentation for me and nodded encouragingly at everything I said. Otherwise the audience's blank stares would've flustered me.

And...I survived! I didn't stumble as much as I expected to, so I guess it went better than I thought it would. True, one woman in the audience appeared to be nodding off. But a few people came up to me afterward to talk, which I took as a sign of approval. They even indicated that they or someone they knew might be interested in doing Native comics.

I had briefly mentioned the possibility of playing Scrabble or other games in Native languages. Afterward, one attendee said her tribe's students play "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with a gift certificate as a prize. Another attendee said her tribe's students play "Jeopardy."

I stayed for the presentation on FirstVoices.org by Shaylene Boechler, but skipped the final afternoon sessions. I went back to the hotel, changed, and took the van into Fountain Hills for more exploring and photographing.

The town's community center has an art park with a couple dozen sculptures. That was enough to keep me busy for a couple hours. I love public art.

I walked through town to the aptly-named Avenue of the Fountains. I reached the central park with the lake and the world's fourth (?) highest fountain in time for the 5 pm show. As the sun set, I returned to the hotel in time to capture the gorgeous colors on "film."


This time I made sure to hit the casino's buffet before it closed. I had four plates full of food and a dish of ice cream before they removed everything and closed up. That was just enough to fill me up.

I must've walked five miles and I was feeling it. I went to bed at the relatively early hour of 11 pm. And that's the story for Monday, Oct. 26.

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