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Kumu ʻAlika
Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Thursday, June 18, 2009, 9:31 AM
Article from: The Courier-Mail
Peter Michael and Natalie Gregg

June 19, 2009 12:00am

HE is a living relic and an ancient linguistic treasure.

Kuku Thaypan elder Tommy George, 82, is the sole surviving fluent speaker of his language.

"I'm the last of them," said the son of an Aboriginal king. "Everybody knows that."

When the famed tracker dies, 48,000 years of oral history
Picture of Nāpualani Waterhouse
Re: Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Nāpualani Waterhouse - Thursday, June 18, 2009, 10:34 AM
Aloha e ke Kumu Alika,
     Mahalo for sharing this article about Kuku Thaypan elder Tommy George. 
The loss of this language and others should encourage more Hawaiians to strive and imua ka ??lelo Hawai?i beyond song and dance throughout all our communities.
Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 9:43 PM
Mahalo e N?pualani for your mana?o.  K?ko?o!  Beyond song and dance are all of the other aspects that help to foster our cultural identity of which the author noted:

"All sorts of things are expressed in traditional language from how you understand the natural world, to songs, laws, traditions, stories, how you relate to each other, and the whole philosophy of life."

I mua k?kou e ka po?e Hawai?i!

na Kumu ?Alika

Picture of Ke'alohi Moody
Re: Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Ke'alohi Moody - Friday, June 19, 2009, 10:02 AM
Aloha e Kumu 'Alika a me ka papa,
When I was in Australia, we took a 3 hr tour (was supposed to be 2, but we had lots of questions) with an Aboriginal man who showed us the sites important to his people. This in the midst of Sydney, where probably no one would notice unless they were really observant. As a poet and teacher, I am always pondering the immense implications of language. As I write my own poetry or correct student work, I see that the tendrils of language stretch far beyond ke '?lelo ma ke 'ao'ao. Most people are far removed from the land that has shaped them and language is part of the landscape, inner and outer, of the person, the soul. Most people do not work with the land. It is a good thing that Hawaiians recognize the significance of language beyond its use as simply a means of conveying ideas (though that is no small thing!).

'O wau kiho n? me ke aloha,
Ke'alohi Moody
Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 9:52 PM
Mahalo e Ke?alohi for sharing your experience in regards to your travels in N?h?lani.  What an awesome opportunity!

Your statement in regards to language echo that of N?pulani's acknowledging that there is more to language than just the obvious reasons.  It is indeed much more than that and its attachment to land is profound.

Mahalo nui for adding to this discussion.

na Kumu ?Alika
Picture of Kathryn Hudson
Re: Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Kathryn Hudson - Monday, July 6, 2009, 4:55 AM
Aloha e Kumu 'Alika,

Mahalo nui for posting this article. It's so important for people to be aware of the terrible price of language loss, and of the fact that a culture is never the same once it's language is gone. I've seen this firsthand in my research in Honduras -- I work with the Lenca, an ancient group of people whose language is on the verge of becoming extinct, and the pottery made by their ancestors. It is heartbreaking to watch their language and the culture it represents slip away, and equally sad to see the indifference to this process that exists in much of mainstream Honduran society. Once the language is gone not only will it be impossible for scholars such as myself to unlock the meaning of their invaluable contributions to the archaeological record and cultural shaping of Honduras and Central America, but it will also become very difficult for their descendents to connect with and learn about their culture and hearitage. Even now many of the young Lenca feel a sense of unbelonging -- the increasing lack of language and cultural identity has social ramifications that go far beyond the linguistic sphere. Mahalo again for posting this important piece.

Kathryn Hudson
Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Aboriginal elder the last speaker of his language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Monday, July 13, 2009, 11:03 PM
Mahalo nui e Kathryn for posting your first-hand experience here.  I really appreciate it.  Wow, you are witnessing the negative effects of acculturation on the Lenca as it is happening right before your eyes and you hit all the major points on the loss of cultural identity.  The language is the key to retaining that unique cultural identity as we are learning here in Hawai?i with the revitalization of Hawaiian.  I assume that the European language of Spanish is the dominant language there in Honduras, yes?  Like the English language is to Hawaiians, it is a language from another place with a very different set of values and perspectives.  I wish you the best in your work there and I wish the best to the Lenca too in their journey toward the realization that action needs to be taken before it is indeed too late.  Perhaps our model of "immersion schools" and our "cultural identity philosophy" can be of use, the latter of which just so happens to be translated into Spanish as well.

Ke Akua p?,
na Kumu ?Alika