Tag Archives: Sami

What a Garifuna-Breton Party Has to Do with Jack Kerouac

15 Mar

James-Lovell

photo via ELA

After a short hiatus for renovations and new partnership, Bowery Poetry is back—dropping “Club” from its title—and they’re hosting a Garifuna-Breton party! I’ve posted before about endangered languages—both of which these are—but why I specifically want to mention this party is because Jack Kerouac claimed to have descended from a Breton nobleman.

Bretons are people from Brittany, a Celtic nation located in France. During Kerouac’s day and age there were more than one million Breton speakers. The Brythonic language (Welsh, also endangered, is another example of a Brythonic language) was originally well regarded and spoken among the upper classes, but as people began assimilating it became known as the language of the commoners. Today,  most Bretons today speak French, and only about 200,000 people—particularly in the western area—speak Breton. In the 1960s, the language was being forced out of schools—just like many Native American and Sami languages were. Today, schools are returning to bilingualism, particularly through the efforts of Diwan schools, which were founded in 1977 as an immersion program. Even so, UNESCO classifies Breton as a “severely endangered” language. For more on the history of the language visit Breton Language and visit the US Branch of the International Committee for the Defense of the Breton Language.

Kerouac’s family was French Canadian, and growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts, his first language was the working-class French-Canadian dialect joual. It’s interesting to note that both Breton and joual are associated with commoners; perhaps this is a key to understanding Kerouac and his literature. As far as my current research shows, he was not familiar with the Breton language. However, I recently saw Christopher Felver’s documentary Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, which told the story of how one day Kerouac was sitting on the beach in Big Sur with poet and City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti repeated the phrase “the fish in the sea speak Breton.” Kerouac perked up, hearing the connection to his roots, and asked Ferlinghetti about it and wrote it down in the little notebook he always carried with him. The phrase found its way into his novel Big Sur.

Satori in Paris, which came three years after Big Sur, recounts Kerouac’s travels to France and Brittany in search of his roots. For a fascinating look at Kerouac’s trip and ancestral lineage, check out Dave Moore’s article “The Breton Traveller” on Beatdom.

Here’s the press release for the Garifuna-Breton party:

BOWERY POETRY

IS BACK WITH

A GRAND GARIFUNA-BRETON PARTY!

Poetry! Music! Dance!

Sunday*, March 18 from 6pm-11pm

Admission $10

Bowery Poetry, 308 Bowery (at 1st Street)

Endangered Language groups unite in a call to action to focus attention on the fact that more than half the world’s languages will disappear this century  

Two cultures who met through the Endangered Language Alliance, will celebrate their differences (Breton being Celtic and Garifuna being Arawak), and their similarities (both on the Endangered Language spectrum), but mainly will just celebrate with live music, dance and poetry. This event is being produced by the Bowery Arts + Science Endangered Language Program, and will be one of the first events at the newly renovated Bowery Poetry space at 308 Bowery.

Breton

The strong Breton cultural movement, known as Fest-Noz,  has preserved the expression of a living and constantly renewed practice of inherited dance repertoires with several hundred variations, and thousands of tunes. About a thousand Festou-Noz take place every year with participants varying from a hundred to several thousand people, thousands of musicians and singers and tens of thousands of regular dancers.

Garifuna

Descendants of Arawak, Carib, and African warriors, the resilient Garifuna people of Central America and the Caribbean are known for their rich traditional folklore, including music, dance, food and language. James Lovell is a New York based Belizean Garifuna drummer, recording artist, performer, teacher, and Garifuna cultural activist who grew up with stories told by his elders about the bravery of the Garifuna people and their military leader, Chief Joseph Chatoyer, against efforts by the British colonialists to deny them their identity and the right to speak the Garifuna language.  

 

 

*I double-checked this, and according to the Endangered Language Alliance the event is on MONDAY the 18th.

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Gift Guide for the Swedish Lover

7 Dec

With Santa living in the Lapland (the Finnish side), give a gift from Scandinavia is a wonderful way to make Christmas festive!  Here are a couple ideas from Sweden or inspired by Sweden.  If anyone knows any authentic Sami vendors, please add them in the comments section.

 For the person who loves Swedish crime literature:::

 

The Millennium Trilogy Series (starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) by Stieg Larsson

 

The Inspector Van Veeteren Series (starting with The Mind’s Eye) by Hakan Nesser

 

The Kurt Wallander Series (starting with Faceless Killers) by Henning Mankell

 

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson

 

Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

 

Red Wolf by Liza Marklund

 

Bonus tip! – If you can afford it, give the whole set!  If you’re not sure the person will like the book, you may want to give one of the books plus a gift card to their favorite bookstore.  You can also accompany the book with a coffee mug and Swedish coffee, a book lamp, or a cozy blanket from Swedish chain IKEA.

Gift ideas for the Swedish food lover:::

 

Swedish Breads and Pastries by Jan Hedh

 

Sweet and Savory Swedish Baking by Leila Lindholm

 

Hash by Torgny Lindgren

 

Swedish coffee basket by Anderson Butik

Coffee and sweets gift box by Anderson Butik

Swedish pancake basket by Anderson Butik

Bonus tip! – Select a coffee and food product that naturally go together and give them as a pair.  The gift baskets make shopping and wrapping easier!

Gifts for the Swedish home:::

Swedish table prayer tile

Iron candle holder with hearts

Iron candle holder with wild horses

Swedish blessing

Algfamilj tea towel

Bonus tip! – A gift card to IKEA would go nicely with any of these.  A lovely handwritten message or something that is personal and has sentimental value is also nice to give with gifts for the home.

 

Gifts for people on the go:::

Carrie Swedish lace bicycle basket

A Volvo

Bonus tip! – A nice key chain would go well with either of these.

 

God Jul!  Merry Christmas!

I Love Menominee: Student Speaks Endangered Language

2 Mar

A middle school student was reprimanded recently for saying “I love you” in her the Menominee language while at school.  Miranda Washinawatok was benched from her basketball game because her teacher couldn’t understand what she was saying.  The teacher said the Wisconsin student could not speak in the endangered Native American language because it kept the teacher from knowing what she was saying.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, it was common to hearing foreign languages—mainly Korean—in the hallways or on the playground.  Maybe there were times when I had to remind my friends to translate for me, but I don’t remember the teachers ever telling students they weren’t allowed to speak in their native language.  Of course, non-native English speakers attended ESL and encouraged to learn English, and you weren’t allowed to whisper or talk in class regardless of what language you were speaking in.  There was, however, never a sense that a student wasn’t allowed to speak in a foreign language among his or her friends.

However, that has not been the case elsewhere in the world.  My ancestors from my mother’s side were Sami, from the Swedish Lapland, and there are many stories of children not being allowed to speak their native Sami language and the language was not taught in schools.  Today there are nine living Sami languages, but some Sami languages are critically endangered.

Likewise, the Menominee language that the Wisconsin middle schooler said “I love you in” is a critically endangered language.  The language is an Algonquian language used by the Native American Menominee tribe in the Midwest.

Wikipedia reports:

According to a 1997 report by the Menominee Historic Preservation Office, 39 people speak Menominee as their first language, all of whom are elderly; 26 speak it as their second language; and 65 others have learned some of it for the purpose of understanding the language and/or teaching it to others.

If you’re interested in learning Menominee, check out this English-Menominee dictionary or this tutorial.

You may also be interested in the College of Menominee Nation, which is working on a grant called “Menominee Language Revitalization: Teaching the Community” that proposes the following:

The language project will focus on implementing weekly “Language Tables” at six sites on the Menominee Indian Reservation. A Language Table is a place where a person can go and learn Menominee Language. The Language Tables, held on a year round basis, are set up for beginning learners as well as for advanced learners. A fluent Menominee will be in attendance at all Language Tables. Most often, Language Tables will start with a pot luck meal.

Here’s the website for the Menominee tribe

So just how do you say “I love you” in Menominee?  “Tapanaew” means love.

Gift Guide: For the Swede or Lover of Swedish Culture

21 Dec

With Santa living in the Lapland (the Finnish side), give a gift from Scandinavia is a wonderful way to make Christmas festive!  Here are a couple ideas from Sweden or inspired by Sweden.  If anyone knows any authentic Sami vendors, please add them in the comments section.

 

 For the person who loves Swedish crime literature:::

 

The Millennium Trilogy Series (starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) by Stieg Larsson

 

 

 

 

 

The Inspector Van Veeteren Series (starting with The Mind’s Eye) by Hakan Nesser

 

 

 

 

 

The Kurt Wallander Series (starting with Faceless Killers) by Henning Mankell

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

 

 

 

 

 

Red Wolf by Liza Marklund

 

 

 

 

Bonus tip! — If you can afford it, give the whole set!  If you’re not sure the person will like the book, you may want to give one of the books plus a gift card to their favorite bookstore.  You can also accompany the book with a coffee mug and Swedish coffee, a book lamp, or a cozy blanket from Swedish chain IKEA.

 

Gift ideas for the Swedish food lover:::

 

Swedish Breads and Pastries by Jan Hedh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet and Savory Swedish Baking by Leila Lindholm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hash by Torgny Lindgren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swedish coffee basket by Anderson Butik

Coffee and sweets gift box by Anderson Butik

Swedish pancake basket by Anderson Butik

Bonus tip! — Select a coffee and food product that naturally go together and give them as a pair.  The gift baskets make shopping and wrapping easier!

Gifts for the Swedish home:::

Swedish table prayer tile

Iron candle holder with hearts

Iron candle holder with wild horses

Swedish blessing

Algfamilj tea towel

Bonus tip! — A gift card to IKEA would go nicely with any of these.  A lovely handwritten message or something that is personal and has sentimental value is also nice to give with gifts for the home.

 

Gifts for people on the go:::

Carrie Swedish lace bicycle basket

A Volvo

Bonus tip! — A nice key chain would go well with either of these.

 

God Jul! Merry Christmas!

Ironic Beach Read

29 Aug

 

Remember when it snowed a lot this past winter?  It’s been such a hot and humid summer that I almost forgot about how much snow was on the ground just a few short months ago.

My dad grew up by the beach in Greece and remembers the wonderment of seeing snow for the first time one winter there.  Although I spent four years out in So Cal, where people put Christmas lights on palm trees, I was born on the East Coast, and it’s hard to imagine growing up without snow.

My summer reading has included Barbara Sjoholm’s The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland.  (Thanks for sending it to me, Merrill!)  I thought it would be ironic to read a book about the Arctic Circle while suntanning* at the beach.  Also, sometimes I like to remind myself that I’m Swedish-Sami.  (*I’m Swedish, I don’t actually tan.)

These hot summer days I’ve been dreaming of moving to Sweden.