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Forging Partnerships to Promote Native Languages

Cherokee Collaborators

Left to right: T.J. Holland, Tim Powell, Myrtle Driver, Tom Belt. Seated is Chief Patrick Lambert signing an MOU to initiate a digital knowledge sharing program between the American Philosophical Society and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

By Jacquie Posey
Penn News, February 8, 2017

Timothy Powell’s ethnographic research has taken him to far reaches of the world to uncover what happens when the cultural stories that Native Americans told anthropologists hundreds of years ago are returned to indigenous communities today. Powell is a senior lecturer in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Religious Studies, a consulting scholar at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and director of a new initiative at Penn called Educational Partnerships with Indigenous Communities (EPIC) housed at the Penn Language Center.

For EPIC, Powell will build on his current research, working in partnership with community-based language teachers and elders in indigenous communities. “Native Americans believe that partnerships should be reciprocal,” Powell says. “Reciprocity is a guiding principle in how they govern and do business.” He says that giving back will be a central philosophy for EPIC. “Tribes are sending their language teachers to Penn to teach our students,” says Powell. “In return, we are actively engaged in digital repatriation.”

...Powell says that Penn is one of the leading programs to put digitization and revitalization together at the intersection of technology and culture. “We’re at this incredible moment in history where because of digitization it’s very inexpensive to copy these materials, enabling the return of an enormous amount of material to the community. At the same time, communities are going through an unprecedented moment of cultural revitalization,” he says.

For the complete article, see Penn News.