The story of Native Americans fighting to save their endangered languages.
Lost Words tells the story of Amber, Conrad, Yellow Otter, and S. Neyooxet Greymorning among other Native Americans who are engaged in saving endangered Native American languages. Through them we learn of how language is used to perform ceremonies and to express cultural identity. We also learn of the government push to eradicate Native languages and how the traumas experienced affect Indigenous peoples today.
Dr. Greymorning, a determined and energetic professor, blazed a trail by contacting Disney Studios and convincing them to rerelease the classic film “Bambi” in the Native American language, Arapaho. Now he continues to fight for language revitalization as he shares his teaching methodology, Accelerated Second Language Acquisition (ASLA), with Indigenous groups around the world.
No one knows what the fate of endangered languages will be. One thing is certain though. If we truly cherish a diverse world, we must fight to keep dying languages and cultures from going extinct.
My Connection to the Story
I became interested in this subject of saving dying languages while taking an immersion course in the Arapaho language, one of the Native American languages on the verge of extinction. I was impressed by the teaching methodology the professor used and soon found that after just one semester I could speak more Arapaho than Spanish, even though I had previously studied Spanish for two years. In class, the Arapaho professor, Dr. S. Neyooxet Greymorning, challenged us to think about what it would be like if we were the last 12 people to speak a language. He asked: “What would you do? Would you try to save it or would you just let it die?” During that moment, it felt as if the walls were closing in upon us ready to squeeze us out of existence.
When I approached the professor after class and told him I thought his struggle to save endangered languages would make a compelling film, he seemed to doubt it. This is when I realized that my distance from the issue actually made me a great candidate for producing the film. I could see a powerful and important story behind an issue that he considered obvious and maybe even beyond the grasp of a non-Indigenous audience. Being a filmmaker, I felt it was important to make a film about this urgent situation. But deep down I knew I wasn’t that disconnected from the issue of language extinction after all: my Irish ancestors themselves had once been forced to speak English and punished for speaking Irish.
About Language Loss
When first contact occurred between Native Americans and Europeans there were over 1000 Native American languages spoken in North, Central and South America. Today the number of these Indigenous languages spoken in the U.S. is down to around 150, and linguists estimate that about half of these remaining languages are about to go extinct. Language loss among Indigenous peoples in North America is a pressing issue. This issue has its root cause in the past actions of governments to eradicate these languages through boarding schools, cultural genocide, and forced assimilation. Lack of funding for tribes for language revitalization programs as well as English-only efforts across the U.S. both continue to suppress and ultimately hasten the death of Indigenous languages. The issue of English dominating Indigenous languages is a problem that threatens languages and cultural diversity.
In the film we learn about the traumas and humiliation tribes suffered regarding the speaking of their languages. We are also informed about the contemporary difficulties of transmitting dying languages to the young. But through the continuous efforts of members within the Indigenous communities we will also witness stories of triumph and will see how healing arises from reclaiming one's language and one's voice.
We are excited that raising funding on Kickstarter will give exposure to the issue of saving dying Native American languages. But this is not simply a film about dead words on a page. Through this film we will show that language is a living, breathing part of life that has spiritual significance for those who speak it. This film, therefore, is not only about language, but is also about the identity that comes from cherishing one's language and the freedom that arises from being able to speak with one's ancestors. Simply put: to reclaim one's language is to reclaim one's freedom. But Native American languages are not only important for the identity of Indigenous peoples; they also carry a lot of importance historically and linguistically. There is definitely much to be gained from learning about Indigenous languages, cultures, and knowledge systems. Help us create awareness about the importance of saving these disappearing national treasures!
What We Need
This project has been given a letter of support for its broadcast by PBS. Now we just need to raise the funding to finish it. With the funds that we are able to raise on Kickstarter, we will be able to hire a cinematographer who has joined the project, complete conducting some remaining interviews as well as cover travel, lodging, and equipment expenses. Every dollar contributed will help us reach our goal! We have encountered many heartfelt stories along the way since this project started in 2009. With your support we will be able to share the experiences of generations of Native Americans who have been losing their languages, and we hope the film will provide some possible solutions to this seemingly insurmountable problem. Thank you!
Other Ways You Can Help
Below are a few simple ways you can help us to secure the funds that will make this film a reality:
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5. Lost Words Website
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Brian McDermott, (Producer/Director) (email: email@example.com), is a filmmaker and a social worker who has worked with adjudicated youth, families in poverty and institutionalized senior citizens. Brian has written three feature scripts, and has also written and directed three short films including an award-winning film on aging and assisted living entitled 'Cigarettes and Fresh Air'. In 2008, Brian conceived of making Lost Words as a way of creating awareness about the importance of language revitalization among American Indians. In 2009, he began learning to speak Arapaho, an endangered Native American language. Brian holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and an MSW in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. S. Neyooxet Greymorning, (Executive Producer), received his Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in 1992, and currently holds joint positions in Anthropology and Native American Studies at the University of Montana. He has worked on language issues among Indigenous peoples of Australia, Canada, Colombia S.A., New Zealand, E. Timor and the United States, and has lectured as a visiting scholar at universities throughout the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In his work toward developing strategies for Native language restoration, he has served as the Executive Director of Hinono'eitiit Ho’oowu' (Arapaho Language Lodge) on the Wind River reservation in Wyoming since 1995; a position that was instrumental in his development of a break-through method for second language instruction and acquisition called Accelerated Second Language Acquisition (ASLA).
Sunrise Tippeconnie,(Cinematographer) is a writer/director of Comanche and Navajo descent. Receiving an M.F.A. from Temple University’s Media Arts program, he currently freelances in film production and teaches at the University of Oklahoma in the Film Video Studies department. His credits include work with Michael Winterbottom, Heather Rae, Yen Tan, Sterlin Harjo and Blackhorse Lowe. Sunrise’s own film work as writer/director has played across North America at the Heard Museum, ImagineNATIVE and the National Museum of the American Indian with his shorts Contest, Anticipation of Land in 2089 and recent Leave Durov to the Dogs. Sunrise currently lives in Oklahoma City where he occasionally writes for candlerblog.com, is completing sound work on his short A Comanche Saw Swindle!,and working on a rewrite for a feature screenplay about Quanah Parker.
Jarred Alterman (Cinematographer),is an award winning documentary filmmaker and cinematographer who works in NYC, London and Amsterdam. His short documentary film, MOTT MUSIC (the story of a piano factory in The Bronx) premiered at SXSW 2005, and was distributed by Sundance Channel. It is now on The Documentary Channel. His recent doc/art film, CONVENTO, is currently on the festival circuit: SXSW(world premiere), IFFBoston, Full Frame, Maryland, Cameraimage, Provincetown, Cucalorus, IMA, Margaret Mead, DocFest Berlin, Camden International, Rooftop films and Edinburgh International, Byron Bay. CONVENTO won a special jury prize at IFFBoston for Best Documentary. Over the past ten years, he has collaborated with the artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas (Hail The New Puritan, the Legend of Leigh Bowery) on several films for The Merce Cunningham Dance Company. As a Director of Photography and camera operator working in this medium, his passion for movement was born. Merce Cunningham’s avant-garde approach with “chance” choreography in collaboration with John Cage’s revolutionary concept of music and soundscapes, created masterpieces like, Views, Split-Sides, and Ocean. His appreciation for both simplicity and complexity of camera movement in relation to dance, is an important influence on the visual story telling of Convento. He is currently a cinematographer for the television series, ART:21 (Artists in twenty first century, PBS).
Stephanie Ayanian, (Consulting Producer), is a senior producer/director for Penn State Public Broadcasting where she produced and co-directed Geospatial Revolution and Liquid Assets http://liquidassets.psu.edu/. She was awarded the 2009 American Association of Engineering Societies Engineering Journalism Award for her work on Liquid Assets. Ayanian's work as an independent producer led to a 2005 Superfest Best of Festival Award and a 2006 Black Maria Film Festival Second Place Award. She also was chosen to create the 2006 Philadelphia International Film Festival opening trailer.
Mary McDermott, (Consulting Producer), is a writer, filmmaker and college teacher. She holds an M.F.A. in film from Temple University. She has made many short films, including an Irish musical Three Graveyards, now in post production and a short film based on book 19 of Homer’s Odyssey, which formed part of a feature-length feminist rendition of the story of the Odyssey. The film, produced by women in the Philadelphia area, has screened at festivals and in many venues around the country. In 2009, her feature screenplay “Pritt” placed in the top ten in the prestigious Slamdance Feature Screenplay Competition.
Jesse Kalu, (Composer), In 1994, Jesse began sharing throughout the U.S. & Internationally, his Heartfelt Presentation which incorporates bamboo flutes, story, poetry and nature voices. In 1995, he was invited to share at a Yoga for World Peace Conference in Jerusalem, Israel. In 1996 through 2002, he toured several times in Austria, Germany & Switzerland. He plays and creates Native American style flutes from bamboo growing wild in Sedona.
Other original music provided by Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) and Richard Stuverud (The Fastbacks) who are contributing songs for the film.
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Your donation has substantially helped us to make this film! You will receive the DVD of the finished film, the autographed poster, the "Save a dying language" t-shirt written in an endangered Native American language, and we will also send you a LIMITED EDITION VHS COPY of the rerelease of Walt Disney's classic 'BAMBI' in the Native American language, Arapaho.Estimated delivery:
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Meet the director and other principal members and join us with two tickets to the world premiere (backers will be responsible for their own air travel, ground transportation and accommodations). Follow us after the screening and let's talk at the after party. You will also receive everything in SAVED.Estimated delivery:
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Receive a special engraved IPOD NANO and tickets to a PRIVATE SCREENING of the film with the cast and crew in Missoula, Montana (backers will be responsible for their own air travel, ground transportation and accommodations). Also, receive everything in SAVED!Estimated delivery:
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You will receive a special engraved IPOD NANO and tickets to a PRIVATE SCREENING of the film with the cast and crew in Missoula, Montana (backers will be responsible for their own air travel, ground transportation and accommodations). You will also be registered in a comprehensive 1-day Native American language class with Dr. Greymorning who will instruct you in learning the Native American language, Arapaho. Also, receive everything in SAVED.Estimated delivery:
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You have made this film's completion possible. Receive an "executive producer" credit, all of the above perks, plus an extra 50 DVD copies of the film for you to share with others. Also, join the director and Dr. Greymorning for dinner in Missoula, Montana.Estimated delivery:
- (60 days)