Indigenous Languages and the Promise of Archives


Indigenous Languages and the Promise of Archives

Edited by Adrianna Link, Abigail Shelton, and Patrick Spero

New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies Series

534 pages
19 photographs, 3 illustrations, 4 tables, 1 map, index


May 2021


$99.00 Pre-order

May 2021


$45.00 Pre-order

About the Book

Indigenous Languages and the Promise of Archives captures the energy and optimism that many feel about the future of community-based scholarship, which involves the collaboration of archives, scholars, and Native American communities. The American Philosophical Society is exploring new applications of materials in its library to partner on collaborative projects that assist the cultural and linguistic revitalization movements within Native communities. A paradigm shift is driving researchers to reckon with questionable practices used by scholars and libraries in the past to pursue documents relating to Native Americans, practices that are often embedded in the content of the collections themselves.

The Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at the American Philosophical Society brought together this volume of historical and contemporary case studies highlighting the importance of archival materials for the revitalization of Indigenous languages. Essays written by archivists, historians, anthropologists, knowledge-keepers, and museum professionals, cover topics critical to language revitalization work; tackle long-standing debates about ownership, access, and control of Indigenous materials stored in repositories; and suggest strategies for how to decolonize collections in the service of community-based priorities. Together these essays reveal the power of collaboration for breathing new life into historical documents.


Author Bio

Adrianna Link is the head of scholarly programs at the American Philosophical Society. She also serves as a managing editor of The History of Anthropology ReviewAbigail Shelton is the outreach specialist on a collaborative cultural heritage project at the University of Notre Dame and previously served as the assistant to the librarian at the American Philosophical Society. Patrick Spero is the librarian and director of the American Philosophical Society’s library and museum in Philadelphia. He is the author or editor of several books, including Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West, 1765–1776 and Frontier Country: The Politics of War in Early Pennsylvania.


“This collection is an important contribution to the area of decolonial thinking as it relates to archives, writing studies, power, and language. Its audiences include scholars across a range of disciplines and education leaders in tribal communities.”—Ellen Cushman, author of The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Brian Carpenter
Collaborative Research and Language Revitalization: Toward a Relational Ontology Across Time and Space
Regna Darnell
Part I. Decolonizing Archives
Commentary by Robert J. Miller
  1. Decolonial Futures of Sharing: ‘Protecting Our Voice,’ Intellectual Property and Penobscot Nation Language Materials
Jane Anderson and James E. Francis, Sr.
  1. The Legacy of Hunter-Gatherers at the American Philosophical Society: Frank G. Speck, James M. Crawford and Revitalizing the Yuchi Language
Richard A. Grounds
  1. Supporting Researchers of Indigenous Vernacular Archives
Lisa Conathan
II. Revitalization Tools
Commentary by Bethany Wiggin
  1. Locally Contingent and Community-Dependent: Tools and Technologies for Indigenous Language Mobilization
Jennifer Carpenter, Annie Guerin, Michelle Kaczmarek, Gerry Lawson, Kim Lawson, Lisa P. Nathan, Mark Turin
  1. Translating American Indian Sign Language from the 1880s Up Until the Present Day
Jeffrey Davis
III. Power & Language
Commentary by Diana E. Marsh
  1. “The Indian Republic of Letters”: Scholarly Networks and Indigenous Knowledge in Philology
Sean P. Harvey
  1. Literacy, Cross-Cultural Interaction, and Colonialism: The Making of a Nineteenth-Century Nez Perce Mission Primer
Anne Keary
  1. Across Space and Time: Letters from the Dakota, 1838-1878
Gwen N. Westerman & Glenn M. Wasicuna
IV. Landscape & Language
Commentary by Michael Silverstein
  1. Cúz̓lhkan Sqwe̓qwel̓ (I’m going to tell a story): Revitalizing Stories to Strengthen Fish, Water and the Upper St’át’imc Salish Language
Sarah Carmen Moritz
  1. No Time Like the Present: Living American Indian Languages, Landscapes, and Histories
Bernard Perley, Margaret Ann Noodin, & Cary Miller
V. Creative Collaborations
Commentary by Regna Darnell
  1. “Going Over” and Coming Back: Reclaiming the Cherokee Singing Book for Contemporary Language Revitalization
Sara Snyder Hopkins
  1. Teaching Wailaki: Archives, Interpretation, and Collaboration
Kayla Begay, Justin Spence, and Cheryl Tuttle
VI. Transforming Collecting
Commentary by Jennifer R. O’Neal
  1. Museums and the Revitalization of Endangered Languages and Knowledge
Gwyneira Isaac
  1. Shriniinlii ‘Fix It’: The Grease Mechanics of Translating Gwich’in
Craig Mishler and Kenneth Frank
The Power of Words, Relationships, and Archives
Mary S. Linn
List of Contributors

Also of Interest