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.

Advertisements

The Intelligence in All Kinds of Life: Robin Wall Kimmerer

robin-wall-kimmerer

Kristen Tippett of NPR’s On Being speaks at length with scientist and indigenous citizen Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.

“Why is the world so beautiful?” This is a question Robin Wall Kimmerer pursues as a botanist and also as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She writes, “Science polishes the gift of seeing, indigenous traditions work with gifts of listening and language.” An expert in moss — a bryologist — she describes mosses as the “coral reefs of the forest.” Her work opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as “inanimate.” She says that as our knowledge about plant life unfolds, human vocabulary and imaginations must adapt.

Listen to the full episode here.