Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and American Philosophical Society partner on new project aimed at enhancing the field of linguistics

Project will utilize Tunica-Biloxi manuscripts to develop a pilot example of a new digital archiving platform
(Tunica-Biloxi Tribe)
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 4:53 PM CDT
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The following information was provided to KALB courtesy of The Ehrhardt Group:

MARKSVILLE, La. – The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana’s Language and Cultural Revitalization Program (LCRP) has begun working with The American Philosophical Society (APS) on their newly-launched Indigenous Language Manuscript Interface (ILMI) project. The project was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and will contribute new solutions to the widespread issues found in linguistics and archiving.

“Part of the challenge when exploring Indigenous languages is having access to existing resources and information,'” said Brian Carpenter, Curator of Native American Materials for the APS Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. “We have worked with Tunica-Biloxi since 2014 through their incredible journey of revitalizing the Tunica language from ‘dormant’ to ‘reawakened.’ Because of the Tribe’s extensive archives and years of research, we knew that they would be the best partner for us in showcasing the capabilities of this new platform. We hope that this project opens doors for both Tunica-Biloxi and other Tribes interested in exploring their native languages.”

Through the project, Tunica-Biloxi will partner with APS, which houses the oldest archive of Indigenous languages, cultures and histories in the United States. Together, the Tribe and APS will create a new addition to archives-based, open-source platforms, allowing researchers to navigate and view digitized original pages of manuscripts written in endangered languages in new, enhanced ways. The platform will also house data about the original text and information added by linguists and community language experts. The goal of this platform is to make all resources readily available to larger audiences thus encouraging the exploration of Indigenous languages.

“We are very proud of all that we have accomplished in our journey of revitalizing the Tunica language and thrilled for the opportunity to make language exploration more accessible for others,” said John Barbry, Director of Development and Programing for the Tunica-Biloxi Language and Culture Revitalization Program. “There is so much that can be learned about a tribe’s culture and history by understanding their language. We hope that through this project we can encourage other Tribes to embark on their own linguistic journey.”

This partnership will focus on the 1930s Tunica language notebooks of Mary Haas and the last known fluent Tunica speaker, Sesostrie Youchigant. The Tribe’s language experts and apprentices will produce transcripts, transliterations and additional information, which will integrate community expertise into the project and provide opportunities for language apprentices to expand their training.

The finished product will be a full Tunica language portal hosted by the APS which will be shared with researchers and used as a model for how other linguists can utilize the capabilities of this platform to enhance the usability of their manuscripts.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this project and grateful for the opportunity to serve as an example for other Tribes that are interested in learning more about their language and culture,” said Marshall Pierite, Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. “Thank you to APS and the National Science Foundation for your commitment to supporting us and other Tribes in our mission of uncovering our past.”

For more information on the project, click here.

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