What We’re Doing with Your Money

Guatemala Radio Project
Our lobbying efforts on behalf of community radio stations has been seeing impressive results. As we’ve been reporting, we were able to get a new telecommunications bill introduced to the Guatemalan Congress, one that will fully legalize community radio. For the past few months we’ve been lobbying Congress members to win their support for the bill, organizing volunteers to go to the capital and visit representatives’ offices, visiting those representatives in their home regions, and organizing meetings with party heads. Those efforts got the bill out of committee, but it has yet to be put on the agenda for the Congress to debate and vote on it.

Mayan community members, frustrated by the lack of action, took to the streets of the capital to protest the situation, and that got the government’s attention. On August 24th, Guatemala’s president, Alvaro Colom, summoned radio operators and Cultural Survival to a meeting at the presidential palace, where Roberto Alejos (president of the Congress), and members of the Supreme Court were to discuss how to grant long-promised broadcast licenses to community radio stations. Unfortunately, the president failed to attend the meeting, and only the head of the judicial branch appeared. It’s unclear at this writing whether the meeting will be rescheduled. But the fact that the president called the meeting at all indicates just how far our efforts have taken us.

We’ve not been idle elsewhere, either. The project is using a grant from the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation to create a series of programs to be broadcast on 52 community stations over 8 months, encouraging Indigenous women to get their national identification cards so they can vote. (In many Latin American countries, national identification systems are the basis for voting and receiving government benefits and services.) Those programs will target communities that have high Indigenous populations but low numbers of women voters. We’re also using a grant from the New England Biolabs Foundation to create a new radionovela (soap opera) series about the community of Totonicapán, which has sustainably managed a forest for 500 years. Those programs will encourage listeners to adopt those methods in their own areas. To help make radionovelas more effective, we engaged a U.S.-based graduate student in theater to conduct month-long intensive trainings sessions in playwriting and acting. And we’re using a grant from Equal Exchange to expand our existing programs on fair trade coffee farming to cover fair trade issues related to all sorts of products, from cardamom to cacao.

We are also continuing our intensive lobbying around the telecommunications bill, and on the assumption that the bill will pass, we hosted a series of workshops with 40 representatives from 32 stations to start establishing minimum operating standards for community radio stations. There is a very wide range of stations, from tiny to large, and part of implementing the new telecommunications law will be the government establishing requirements for stations. The Indigenous station representatives want to be sure that those standards are practical and appropriate for stations of all kinds, so they have started working out their own recommendations to make to the government.

Endangered Languages Program
Thanks to the generous support of our donors, we were able to provide our partners at the Hinon'eitiino'oowu (Arapaho Language Lodge) immersion school on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming with a truckload of equipment for their preschool and kindergarten classrooms. We also raised $1,000 in direct assistance for the stand-alone Arapaho Language Lodge preschool site. Among the many items purchased were beanbag chairs, sand and water tables, doll cribs, play kitchens, dress-up centers, mobile listening and art stations, gallons of paint, easels, smocks, writing materials, plastic beads, blocks, dough stampers, a wooden train set, grocery sets, stuffed animals, doctor’s office, cash register, and a variety of writing materials. Teachers will use all of these items and the additional funds to help the students learn Arapaho and apply the language to daily life.

This quarter we also were able to raise $2,600 in direct support for the Euchee Language Project’s daily youth language programs in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. In collaboration with the Meskwaki Nation of Iowa and our partners at the Sac and Fox Nation’s Sauk Language Department in Stroud, Oklahoma—sister language communities—we submitted a grant proposal to enhance local tribal archives with copies of 27,000 pages of invaluable language documentation written by first-language Meskwaki/Sauk speakers in the early 20th century. Currently the crumbling collection is accessible only to on-site researchers at the National Anthropological Archives in Suitland, MD.

We drafted 57 tribal language program profiles from 22 states to include in our languagegathering.org website under construction, and additional content development is underway. We will eventually have profiles of nearly 300 tribal language programs, all of which will be able to share information, ideas, and best practices.
In addition, we are preparing written testimony for the federal government’s consultations with tribes, encouraging the government to increase support for Native language education in the Head Start program (which currently is very limited). And we’re partnering with the National Congress of American Indians this fall seeking a presidential executive order in support of Native language revitalization.

Finally, Cultural Survival will be presenting two screenings of films at the National Indian Education Association’s fall language summit. The first piece, Voices of the Heart, was produced by filmmaker Amy Williams and former Wind River Reservation resident Tish Keahna for Al Jazeera's program Witness. The film features Cultural Survival's partner language programs, the Arapaho Language Lodges, on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. The film is an inspirational window into tenacious tribal communities where unemployment often tops 70 percent and substance abuse is rampant, but where dedicated language warriors carry on their work with the little ones to rescue a fading ancestral tongue. An estimated 150 first-language Arapaho speakers remain on Wind River.

Cultural Survival will also present a 25-minute preview of the forthcoming feature-length documentary We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân, produced by filmmaker Anne Makepeace in collaboration with Cultural Survival. The film features Cultural Survival's Endangered Language Program advisors from the Wampanoag Nation's Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project in Massachusetts. Wampanoag has not been spoken for nearly 150 years, but is being revived by the tribe, which now has its first native speaker in a young girl, who is featured in the film.

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