The ¡Globalquerque! presentation "Hand-to-Tongue: A Celebration of Threatened Languages" features four affiliated with UNM – alumni Lisa Gill and Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, graduate student Tanaya Winder and dual enrollment student Reed Bobroff – at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, in the National Hispanic Cultural Center's Wells Fargo theater.
"Hand-to-Tongue" presents poetry and conversation about native languages lost, Navajo preserved and the intimacy and joy of American Sign Language. Practicum students in the UNM signed language interpreting program will interpret the event.
Gill, graduate of UNM's Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and founding artistic director of the Local Poets Guild, hosts the event, sponsored by the LPG. She described the benefits of language preservation as scaling from the level of the individual to the world.
"To celebrate and preserve threatened languages is to respect the planet and protect the full vitality of cultures," Gill said. "We need bounty to reap the full pleasure of sharing the world with others."
"There are even studies which correlate linguistic diversity with environmental diversity. We may need languages more than we can even comprehend," she said.
Winder is a candidate for UNM's M.F.A. in creative writing, Department of English Language and Literature. She comes from the Duckwater Shoshone and Southern Ute nations.
"I don't know my language, the historical tongue of my people. In this way, I know silence, the loss of words," Winder said. "My grandmother speaks her indigenous language, Duckwater Shoshone. She comes from a different era and experienced boarding school including its positives and negatives. She did not teach her children her native language, and there's where it started dying. It is because of this loss that I understand the sacredness of words and is perhaps at the heart of why I became a poet."
Burke, graduate of UNM's Department of Philosophy, is the first known signing deaf woman to receive a doctorate in philosophy. She is an assistant professor of philosophy at Gallaudet University, the world leader in liberal education and career development for deaf and hard of hearing students.
"The diversity of languages is not just about different sounds and movements – in the case of signed languages – but about different ways of seeing the world. Preserving these languages is a way of ensuring and encouraging diversity of thought and cultural knowledge," Burke said.
Signed languages are endangered because medical progress is reducing the number of people learning them. "The intended goal of this technology is not to eliminate signed languages, but to help people acquire access to sound, or – in the case of immunizations – simply to avoid suffering. The side effect of this primary goal – philosophers often refer to this as a double effect… – is to decimate the number of signed language users around the globe, since deaf children have historically been the future users and caretakers of the language," she said. "Professor Sherman Wilcox of the UNM linguistics department has worked on projects to document these signed languages in Italy, Brazil and Saudi Arabia."
Bobroff is a Dine writer and senior at the Native American Community Academy. In 2010 his team took third place at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam, broadcast on HBO.
For information about ¡Globalquerque!, visit globalquerque.com and also Local Poets Guild.