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Official language

I read today that Native American tribes in Oklahoma are opposing legislation to make English the state’s official language.  I respect the fact that there are 37 Native American tribes recognized in that state.  I am not of Native American descent.

Proponents of the legislation state that publishing all official documents in one language only (English) is a cost-saving measure, eliminating the expense of duplication.  They also hope that it will encourage non-English speaking immigrants to make the effort to learn the language of the country they have chosen to immigrate to.  (We are not dragging them here)  Supporters point out that the legislation doesn’t interfere with the teaching or learning of American Indian languages.

Opponents say the native tongues are dying fast enough without any help from lawmakers. The tribes are fighting to save their languages and cultures from extinction.  Critics said a government policy could impede efforts to revive tribal languages.

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Ok, then.  Well.  Circle the wagons, please, cause I’m gonna be attacked here.  No flaming arrows near my knitting, though, if you would be so kind.

English should be the Official language of every state in the United States. 

I am sorry to hear that the rich Native American languages and cultural diversities are gradually being lost, one generation to the next.  Young ones are exposed to other thoughts, ideas, and yes, languages, and then choosing to live their lives differently than the generations before them.  As they take on new ways, they leave behind the old ones. 

The only way to insure continuity of a culture intact is to isolate all the people of that culture from everyone else.  Isolation can be physical (Move to a mountaintop or a deserted island) or perhaps imposed by strict religious beliefs.  Short of that, change will occur.  Deal with it, folks.  Quit trying to place blame.

We are a nation of many different cultures from many different lands, blending together over time.  The first generation to witness change perhaps looked around in wide-eyed wonder, and learned much about new ways.  The second generation looked around at what was now normal to them, looked back at the generation before them, and then made a choice.  No one is currently being forced to give up the ways of their parents and grandparents.  The change is freely chosen by the participants.  It’s a fact of life that young ones are not always gonna do what the parents want, and in many cases, that includes not learning, honoring and passing on the old ways and traditions. 

What’s really going on here?  The elders are not happy with the choices the young ones make – well, that’s not a  issue just for Native Americans.  Most parents disagree with decisions made by their children; I would guess that started with Adam and Eve, and hasn’t skipped a generation since.

What’s printed on driver’s licenses in Oklahoma has no effect on whether young Native Americans feel a reverence for their traditional ways.  For languages to continue, many that are fluent need to want to teach it, but also needed are ones that want to learn.   Without both sides, sadly, traditions, languages will be lost. 

Also sad is that the young ones, currently making the choice to discard the “old ways” may later regret that choice.  And by then, it may be too late.

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My grandparents came to this country about 100 years ago.  Came in at Ellis Island and got as far as north Jersey; guess that’s where their money ran out.  Assimilation was difficult; the men learned some English from co-workers in a factory, also foreign-born, the women learned from the children when they went off to school.  All children were bi-lingual.  But in those days, they wanted assimilation.  They didn’t want to appear “foreign.”  And most of the traditions were not passed on; no one was interested in the old ways.  I know nothing of my heritage, and have nothing to pass on to my children and grandchildren.  And now, the old ones are all gone and it’s too late.  It’s a damn shame, but it’s not the fault of my driver’s license.

 



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