The substance of self-determination : language, culture, archives and sovereignty

by Michael Andrew Shepard

Institution: University of British Columbia
Department: Anthropology
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 2062586
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/52865


Everyday communication in minority languages continues to experience decline around the world, even given efforts to reverse these processes. As language shift progresses the products of language documentation, including the oral histories and the unique cultural information they contain, become increasingly important. Archives are commonly used to store these resources, but the design and functionality of archives often fails to address language community interests in protecting their capacity for self-determination and other core cultural beliefs. I find that most existing language archives examples lack sufficient controls to maintain culturally based sharing protocols, enable contextualization of resources, provide opportunities for local collaboration and support educational dissemination. Lack of capacity to manage use of and access to language resources in an archive can contribute to an erosion of sovereignty for the language community. Partially in response to the cultural incongruence of existing archive options, community-based and participatory archives are on the rise. In this dissertation I critically evaluate the capacity of endangered language archives to operate in concert cultural beliefs, including the maintenance of sovereignty and demonstration of indigeneity. The identification of language ideologies is a useful lens to determine the cultural compatibility of archives and their practices. I present research with people from Indigenous communities in Washington State, Alaska and California. In addition, I describe interviews with managers and directors from international language archives and small community based ones. My research makes use of the Mukurtu CMS archive platform to both test this tool and its applicability for language preservation. Control of language resources enables tribes to reassert their capacity for cultural resource management as part of their self-determination.