Dartmouth Senior Fellowship Project: Saving the Potawatomi Language

corinne kaspar dartmouth potawatomi eli burakian

Corinne Kasper ’17, who belongs to the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi tribe in southwestern Michigan, has been studying her native language since she was 13 years old. But fluent speakers and teachers of Potawatomi have been dwindling as English has become dominant. Kasper, a linguistics major, is developing teaching tools to help people learn or re-learn an endangered language that she sees as a cornerstone of her culture.

“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” says Kasper, who holds a Mellon Mays Fellowship. She’s one of five senior fellows who, recognized for academic excellence, are freed from classes in their final year to concentrate on a single project. The projects conducted by the senior fellows are funded by the Kaminsky Family Fund. Gerry Kaminsky ’61, who established the fund, was himself a senior fellow at Dartmouth.

For her thesis, Kasper is studying three similar languages: Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Odawa. She’s doing something she says has not been done before: making a study guide about the formation and function of verbs. Potawatomi’s verb system is difficult for language learners to master, and she wants to make it easier.

Read this encouraging story by Charlotte Albright in the Dartmouth News. Photo by Eli Burakian.

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VPR: Coming To Terms With Vermont’s Dark History Of Eugenics

vpr-vt state hospital waterbury 1900

VPR’s Vermont Edition devoted June 7th’s broadcast to an interview with Dartmouth College senior Mercedes de Guardiola. Mercedes spoke on the State of Vermont’s Eugenics Survey at the State Archives just the week before (see Sokoki Sojourn’s post here). The original 6/7/17 VPR article includes 34 minutes of audio – please listen carefully by clicking here.

Vermont’s prominent role in the American eugenics movement of the early 20th century is an often overlooked part of the state’s history.  The state’s brutal history of sterilization, forced institutionalization, and racist pseudoscience is the focus of a new academic paper by our guest.

We’re joined by Dartmouth College senior Mercedes de Guardiola. Her thesis covering the eugenics movement in Vermont is “Blood has told”: The Eugenical Campaign in the Green Mountain State.

Broadcast was live on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

VPR: Dartmouth Student Researches Vermont’s History Of Eugenics

Click here for the audio on VPR News’ The Frequency.

In the early 20th century, Vermont was among a group of states that had policies on the books based on eugenics — the idea that the human population could be controlled to bring out what were considered “desirable” characteristics.

Mercedes de Guardiola, a student at Dartmouth College, wrote her senior thesis on the history of eugenics in Vermont. Though the study of eugenics has since been discredited, when the policies were in effect, they resulted in the sterilization of some Vermonters.

De Guardiola is presenting her work Wednesday evening at the Vermont State Archives in Middlesex. [Note: this took place last night, 5/31/2017]

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with de Guardiola about the origins of Vermont’s eugenics policy, its lasting effect on the state and what’s been done in the years since to reckon with this period in Vermont’s history.

Vermont State Eugenics Survey Presentation May 31, 2017

vt eugenics survey presentation

Link to pdf for event announcement: eugenicspresentation_20170531

“Eugenics and the Vermont State Hospital are subjects with which we, as a state, continue to wrestle,” says Secretary of State Jim Condos. “Archival records provide context for these chapters of our government’s past, some of which are dark. We are pleased to have the opportunity to host two presentations that illustrate how these and other historical records help shed light on these matters.”

May 31 — “Blood has told:” The Push for a “Eugenical Solution” in the Green Mountain State. Scholarship on Vermont’s eugenics movement has largely focused on the Eugenics Survey of Vermont of the 1920s, even though state officials proposed eugenical policies as early as 1912. Mercedes de Guardiola, a senior at Dartmouth College majoring in history, examines why eugenics emerged in Vermont and its impact on Vermont’s eugenical policies over the course of the twentieth century.

From the press release from the VT Secretary of State’s office, which is hosting the event. Full copy here.