Lushootseed and the Library

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UW Tacoma Library supports the Lushootseed Language Institute

"Indigenous Language Revitalization: Lushootseed on the Puyallup Reservation”—that was the name of the SIAS Brown Bag presentation that Danica Miller, Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, gave in April.  Out of curiosity, UW Tacoma librarian Justin Wadland decided to attend.  He also thought it would be good to check out a campus event outside of his normal line of work—but minutes into the presentation, he was thinking about how the UW Tacoma Library could support the work that Professor Miller was describing.

As part of her involvement in Lushootseed language revitalization, Professor Miller discussed how she has organized the Lushootseed Language Institute (LLI), a two-week program held on the UW Tacoma campus this summer for beginning and intermediate Lushootseed language learners.  Lushootseed, a Salish language, is spoken by Native American tribes in Western Washington; LLI is partly funded by the Puyallup tribe and is open to everyone.  Justin was struck by not only the scholarly importance of Miller’s work but the significance of the fact that LLI is held on the UWT campus, which is historically Puyallup land.

After Professor Miller’s brown bag presentation, Justin approached her to see if she might be interested in partnering with the UW Tacoma Library to develop a digital repository for the Lushootseed Language Institute’s course materials in the library’s Digital Commons, which Justin manages.  She thought it was a great idea. “The Puyallup specifically, but the Coast Salish in general, are very generous, welcoming people,” Professor Miller says.  “And sharing our work with people is absolutely part of our cultural agenda.”

They scheduled a meeting and together worked out the design process for creating the Lushootseed Language Institute collection in Digital Commons.  Currently the site consists of the Institute’s course schedule and materials.  Eventually, students of the Institute, which took place August 1-12, will create videos in Lushootseed and post them to YouTube; those will be included in the collection as well.  “Digital Commons is a really powerful tool that we have access to in the library; I'm just glad that this is one of the uses it can be put toward,” Justin says.  Over time, descriptions and metadata will be added, making the materials much easier to find, for UW students, staff, and faculty, as well as the public.  

In addition, the UW Tacoma Library purchased books in support of Lushootseed language learning; search the UW Libraries catalog for “Lushootseed.”  The Lushootseed Dictionary and Puget Sound Geography, which maps the region using Lushootseed names, are particularly of interest.  Both can be found in our Local History section, on the first floor of the Snoqualmie Building.   

However, the main materials of the Lushootseed Language Institute are housed in Digital Commons—and they will continue to be, as Professor Miller is already planning to host LLI again next year.  “Both the teachers of the Institute, as well as students (many of whom are teachers) are so excited to have these materials, which are helpful both to learners and researchers, readily available for new and renewed learners,” she remarked.

Justin is glad that he got out of his office that day in April to learn about the work of everyone involved in Lushootseed revitalization.  “It's great that they are doing this to preserve the language and allow that part of their culture to be passed on to the next generations, and I'm glad the library can be there to support it from the beginning.  It was kind of just being in the right place at the right time,” Justin explains.  “It’s also a good reminder for staff to get out and go to events on campus…  Doing that is what allows for connections and projects like this to happen.”

Written by: 
J. Angela Wiehagen / September 7, 2016
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