Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The field of Linguistics, and to a lesser but nevertheless significant degree, Linguistic Anthropology, both support while simultaneously marginalizing Indigenous needs and ways of knowing by casting Indigenous language work in colonial categories and value systems. For instance, Linguistics thrives on the metaphor of ‘language’ as a structural object to be analyzed in ways that are decontextualized from people, social contexts, and community needs, thus largely violating Indigenous research norms of respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility. In contrast, while work in Linguistic Anthropology tends to be comparatively well anchored in people and social contexts, it nevertheless also often violates Indigenous research norms by reporting on, rather than starting from, community needs and values in planning, doing, and disseminating Indigenous language work. Reflecting on several years of experiences as an Indigenous linguist and faculty member at a research university, I propose that starting from Indigenous intellectual tools and protocols corrects these and related disjunctures (Meek 2010) between academic work and how Indigenous community members relate to language. Employing the framework of Radical Indigenism, which takes as a core assumption that Indigenous “philosophies of knowledge are rational, articulable, coherent logics for ordering and knowing the world” (Garroutte 2003:113), I argue for the value of Indigenous language work conducted in this way. Through this approach, community definitions of ‘language’ are employed as analytics rather than folk beliefs (Leonard 2017), relationality guides how language work is executed, and all stakeholders (including land, ancestors, and future descendants) are included in terms of responsibility and reward.