The Importance Of Translating Shakespeare Into Endangered Languages

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

The statement in the sub-headline was an important point raised by Kyle Kallgren, who has a YouTube channel called “Brows Held High,” where he talks about Avante-garde films, as well as Shakespeare’s works.

Although I agree with his point, the problem that I find with his suggestion to translate Shakespeare into “fakey languages” is that the phenomenon of translating Shakespeare would place conlangs, or constructed languages, on the same level as real-world languages and might be at risk of trivializing the problem of trying to bring new speakers to these endangered languages. There are more speakers for conlangs than those languages. What is more, those conlangs are traditionally spoken by peoples who do not even exist in real life. If anything, they are derivative in nature, just like how the Dothraki are modeled after Central Asian and Native American tribes.

While I do not object to Shakespeare’s works being translated into these fictional languages, they mainly exist for the gimmicky purpose of either drawing people into popular franchises or strengthening a devoted fan-base. The real-world languages do not exist as a niche part of an overall culture, they ARE the overall cultures in which the knowledge of the landscape revolves around. They were always in a process of being used and modified for thousands of years, whereas these conlangs are fairly recently created, and the latter reflect more off the world in which they exist than the real world.

How can you sustain endangered languages when their own devoted fans are dwindling from old age or immersion into a dominant language? This is how endangered languages can be modernized and it would disprove the notion that they are primitive and irrelevant to the 21st century. A most notable, and most appropriate, translation would be the “MacBheatha.” This would make sense, considering how the play takes place in Scotland and language the Scots speak is endangered. Of course, Shakespeare’s plays “Julius Caesar” and “Measure for Measure” were already translated into Scottish Gaelic. However, the overall theme of “Macbeth” is enough to connect itself to the Scottish audience, just as it is relevant to Hebrew-speakers to see their translation of “The Merchant of Venice.” This identifiable means of publication may even bring new fans into Shakespeare.

As such, the connection between the audience and the translations of Shakespeare are vitally important for nation-building. How this is so is that the people that speak a “less prestigious language” are no longer reliant on the dominant language. This was what made the Swahili translations of Shakespeare’s plays important for the beginnings of Tanzanian nationalism. Shakespeare translations are also important for culture-building. The Maori translation of “The Merchant of Venice” (2002) was the first Maori-language film ever produced.

An issue with making a minority language appear more autonomous that would arise, which even Klingon Hamlet has, would involve translating metaphors known not even to Modern English speakers. For example, Hamlet saying “When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin” might be roughly translated into Irish Gaelic as “when he might depart for the House of Donn with a bodkin as his passage fee.” Since “Quietus make” comes from the Latin phrase “Quietus est,” meaning “laid to rest,” it might be appropriate and more ingrained in the originality of the Irish Gaelic version, to reference the House of Donn. That, in pre-Christian Irish, mythology is the island where people go after death ruled by Donn, the god of the dead. This change might also result in “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” becoming “the undiscovered island from whose harbor no sailor returns.”

What’s interesting in the two original Scottish Gaelic translations of “Macbeth,” or “MacBheatha” is the part when Lady Macbeth talks about wanting to pour spirits into her husband’s ear. In two translations, the word “spirit” is replaced with spionnadh, or strength (which is also roughly translated as “spirit”), which might reference a part of Scottish Gaelic literature. This is specifically a 16th century lament by Marion Campbell mourning the execution of her husband, MacGregor of MacGregor, wishing she had spionnadh to destroy a castle. Although it shatters the original allusion of “pouring spirits” as an alcohol pun, it does create a different allusion and could open interest into the Gaelic body of literature.

However, any endangered language would still endure prejudice in the face of a dominant language culture and neglected studies into that area. This was definitely the case of Scottish Gaelic poetics when analyzing “MacBheatha,” which was left unpublished since the early 1900’s until fairly recently. Translating into a minority language might be seen as pointless at least and subversive at worst, so I would think that a strong argumentation could convince a lot of people to support this vital part of language revitalization.

As such, this is why I think that translating Shakespeare in endangered languages is incredibly important for language revitalization projects. I would hope that this awareness gets spread to academia as well as to other cultured YouTubers like Kyle.

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Wampanoag | “People of the First Light: Wisdoms of a Mashpee Wampanoag Elder,” by Joan Tavares Avant

It truly was an honor to share another work by a Native American elder. There is not much of these copies of this book, so I was quite fortunate to find it.

Plot

Basically, this book is a compilation of essays written by Wampanoag Elder, Avant, for the magazine The Mashpee Enterprise. They involve personal accounts, mythological stories, and history. Although the book is not organized into parts based on these topics, there is a type of flow that comes with reading through this 90-page compilation.

Themes

A major theme that ties these essays together is the relationship the Wampanoag Nation has to nature, specifically with their lands in where they thrived off the rivers and the farming crops. This comes into conflict with the European settlers, who placed incremental restrictions upon their access to land for sustenance.

This was also a theme I found with another Elder’s memoir, which is the remembering of a time when American capitalism did not impose themselves upon indigenous lands and effectively became a modern form of imperialism.

Another theme involves the negativity that comes with the misinformation that the outside receives about the Wampanoag Nation, such as that they no longer exist or that Mashpee is not a tight-knit indigenous community.

Joan Tavares Avant

Unfortunately, I do not see that much about Avant herself in this book. If anything, this book seems to be more about the Wampanoag people themselves than Avant, with her essay “With Intent to Survive” being an exception. Of course, it is not necessarily bad, but I was hoping to see more of Avant’s life as an Elder come up. The front cover referred to Avant as “Granny Squannit” and yet there is nothing explanatory about that name.

She does, however, discuss much about her grandmother, who was a Wampanoag autodidact who deeply studied the Wampanoag history and her house became a museum years later.

Writing Style

Since these are essays, Avant takes the opportunity to make use of not just the technical geographical/historical information, but also timelines, recipes, a creation story, legal language, interview transcripts, and quotations made by other members of the Wampanoag Nation, including former Chiefs.

Another thing to consider when reading these as essays is that Avant writes in a very direct way, without any flowery prose, rather just gets into the technical information.

Wampanoag

In “Wampanoag Country, Mashpee, Massachusetts: A Brief Historical Sketch,” it firmly explains who the Wampanoag Nation is, specifically by outlining their 12,000 year history up to the present (which was 2010 when this was compiled). Basically, they were the tribe that allied with the Pilgrims during Thanksgiving, until it later led to the more white encroachment upon their lands as well as their servitude to them, by residing in areas run by overseers.

Relation to Native American Heritage

This book serves the purpose of educating whoever reads it about the Wampanoag Nation. Avant addresses not only natives, but non-natives as well in this book.

Just like the other piece of Wampanoag literature, this takes into account the education of the multi-surfaced nature of the Thanksgiving holiday and dispelling any stereotypes of the Wampanoag as only existing as the tribe that met with the Pilgrims and not living today. In the case of “Poneasequa,” it involved seeing the confrontation of those stereotypes in action in a work of fiction; whereas these essays merely show these truths with information.

When it came to the true origins of the Thanksgiving holiday, Avant bluntly stated:

“Preparing a meal of vegetables, cranberries, fowl, venison, and seafood was a prelude to many thanksgiving celebrations by the Wampanoag for centuries before the Pilgrims arrived. More credit should be acknowledged for the Wampanoag, giving credit where credit is due!”

Indeed, I personally would love to see the Thanksgiving holiday remove the narrow focus on the Pilgrims and more on the Wampanoag Nation for the ceremonial purpose of talking about Squankum and Massasoit, but as a way to highlight their importance in American history.

No longer just “the Thanksgiving Indians”

Definitely, the Wampanoag Nation vocalize their relevance in this compilation under the guidance of Joan Avant.

 

Avant, Joan Tavares. “People of the First Light: Wisdoms of a Mashpee Wampanoag Elder.” Joan Tavares Avant. 2010.

Mohegan | “Oracles,” by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

Just like my previous entries, there were some hiatuses, but I managed to get this one done.

Plot

In the fictional Yantuck Mountain, the reservation must prepare for the appointment of an Oracle. This novel blurs the distinction between science fiction and spirituality, as well as “spirituality.” The main protagonist is a girl named Ashneon Quay, who studies to become a Medicine Woman for the tribe and is coming home from her university. From that point, she gradually comprehends the importance of her tribal culture amidst the non-indigenous culture she was surrounded by.

Later in the novel, we get to see how truly devastated the reservation and the Quay family has become that go beyond the casino catastrophe.

In between the plot, there are brief legends of the mythology that exists in this novel’s mythopoeia.

Themes

The separation between the Yantuck’s world and the outside world that permeates the conflict of the book. Tomuck finds fault in his fellow natives who have lost their way of life to casinos. The casino that burned down also plays a crucial role in the story and is symbolic of the intrusion of Western aesthetics in indigenous society along with many other intrusions that occur within the story.

“There was a magnetic strength there, one that you couldn’t get from virtual workouts on the cy, only from native genetics and old-time Indian-living.”

Essentially, the main problems that occur in the Yantuck Reservation, and indeed throughout the world outside of it, is the dissolution of tribal customs in a world rife with corruption and tokenism. Indeed, there are the evil spirits in this novel being representative of appropriations for kitsch marketing. Although I did see that with the Yantuck’s culture, I barely saw it with how this impacts the other cultures, such as the one that a character from Mali has, who barely shows up throughout the story.

The spirits themselves seem to only exist in the world through communication with such people like Ashneon.

I did have problem deducing what exactly “cy” was at the beginning, but I am starting to think that Tantaquidgeon may have predicted the rise of the “i-” in “iPhone,” “iPad,” and other forms of modern technology. Even though I figured out that it had to do with technology in this world as in the word “cyborg,” I did not get a lot of detail about exactly how futuristic the technology is supposed to be.

Characters

The protagonist is a girl named Ashneon Quay, who possesses the supernatural ability to communicate with the other world. However, there seemed to be more focus on the world outside of her than the one she is already dealing with and she seems too perfect in handling those problems.

I did like the connection she has with her great-uncle Tomuck. He seems to be an interesting character in between the abstract meanderings of his ominous forebodings.

There is conflict within the family as Obed, her older cousin, is in line to become the next Oracle, even though he has been associating himself with these appropriating forces.

Writing Style

There is a sense of hypnotism that involves blurring the distinction between the description and plot. It forced me to read every single word. At the same time, it did prove quite confusing to follow the plot.

As mentioned before, the use of the word “cy-” is used as a prefix for some other form of technology, such as “cycams,” “cyperazzi,” “cyporter,” etc. There were no concrete descriptions about what constitutes a “cy-.”

There definitely are Native American words that are rooted in Mohegan that appear in the form of not just names, but also in phrases and interjections.

Mohegan

They are a Native American tribe indigenous to New England and were among the first nations in what would become the United States to come into contact with colonists.

Melissa Tantaquidgeon-Zobel herself is a Mohegan descended from the Medicine Woman Gladys Tantaquidgeon who lived to be 103.

Relation to Native American Heritage

What makes this work unique amongst the books reviewed thus far is the creation of a tribe that is also part of the Algonquin family, just like Mohegan. They are called the Yantuck tribe and have their own reservation, mountain, and culture. They even reside next to the Quinnipaug River, which is a close reference to the Quinnipiac River in the State of Connecticut.

In the appendix, there are also references to Mohegan history, with characters being named after historical and mythological figures. Ashneon, for example, was the pseudonym used by Samson Occom, who was among the first Mohegans to convert to Christianity. More specifically, these historical allusions harken back to the colonial era of the early 1600’s era.

As mentioned before, there are words throughout the novel that are rooted in Mohegan. However, it was never established how the Yantuck Tribe came to be, how–like tribes in the eastern coast such as the Lenape–if they weren’t relocated into the western part of the United States then they were not given tribal status and labeled as “Black” or “Mixed,” even where this Yantuck Mountain is located. I would presume that it is located in the New England area.

Viewing the cy between blips of static noise

I will say that there is not only an interesting case of world-building but also one of language manipulation. Ashneon is a decent enough protagonist who retains a precocious view of her responsibilities in the face of a world biased against her. However, the world seems to have significant problems.

 

Tantaquidgeon-Zobel, Melissa. “Oracles: A Novel.” University of New Mexico Press. 2004.

Where My Love Of Languages Came From

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

I have always been fascinated by languages, whether they are real-life or fictional, which has led me to want to pursue a life in linguistics as a possible career goal. Throughout my life prior to adulthood and onwards, I have always been fascinated with languages, especially within the fictional realm, since it makes the world more exotic and strange to the reader. Today, I write about languages here on Odyssey, with one of my articles being about endangered languages and modern media.

As for when I started taking an interest in languages, it started when I was a lot younger. Part of my personal reading involved catalogs, specifically of Digimon cards, Pokémon cards, and Harry Potter memorabilia. What fascinated me about them were the diversity of images and colors, as well as the names that made them unique from each other. In those cases, I was more fascinated by the names and the unique characteristics of each card than about actually playing the Pokémon and Digimon card games. In the Harry Potter catalog, I was fascinated with the number of translations and exposed me to so many languages, such as Icelandic, Hebrew, Thai, Afrikaans, etc.

Another unique part of my reading habits from when I was a child came from the Passport’s Language Guides series, which were books that provided language translations along with illustrations. One that I was particularly fascinated by was the Italian for Beginners edition, specifically the elegant words that the Italian language had. I even thought at one point that I was part Italian, until I was told that I was not.

Other than those reading habits, I did not actively enjoy reading novels that I was not assigned in school. I thought of reading books as being associated with class assignments and rarely read out of enjoyment. Throughout middle school and high school, I did not have any love for the education that I went through. As far as I was concerned, I just wanted to get in and get out.

Particularly in my high school years, I barely interacted with any of my peers, since I did not want to befriend any of them. I barely did well and I had no real ambition. When I became a freshman, my parents split, so it was a very life-changing moment which caused me to feel secluded. A way to acclimate myself to that seclusion was writing and drawing. I fictionalized an entire mythopoeia which involved magic and science, modeled after my childhood interests in Harry Potter and languages.

Throughout those times, I actually enjoyed writing my own fictional languages and having them spoken in both far-away planets and in a fantasy world. So even from an early age, I was fascinated by languages but I never thought of wanting to become a linguist. Wherever the languages were spoken, I would always try to attempt to replicate the cultures in the real world while also materializing the unique cultures within these worlds. So the Mrosk language would be spoken by the first civilization in the fantasy world while Jaiolaok would be the second civilization, and also their language would be the lingua franca spoken by all of the characters. Also, if you are wondering, my 9th grade self would have told you that the continent of Tthawwi is pronounced [tih-THAW-wee]. The “thaw” part is pretty unusual considering how this was actually a civilization of cyborgs in a winterly land. I was a pretty unusual kid.

I was fascinated by conlangs, but I also tried to manipulate my own English language into whatever creative neologisms I would coin. I attempted to experiment by taking words that are unique in themselves and replacing them with other words with modifications. So, a couple examples include putting the prefix “mega-” in front of words such as “megarock” to refer to a “planet” and “megaplant” for a “tree.” Little did I know back then was that there are languages that have this type of grammatical rule, and they are the agglutinative languages, such as Turkish and Finnish. I find this method of word-making fascinating because it enables me to be poetic, which can definitely be said about agglutinative languages, since the grammatical structures within them involve combining prefixes and suffixes and other root words to smaller words in order to create completely different meanings. The English language does this to an extent, though we do not do this to entire sentences as agglutinative languages do.

As it turned out, my interest in linguistics is not too different from J. R. R. Tolkien’s interest in languages in his early life, whether it was during his childhood or when he was serving in World War I. Eventually, those interests led him to become a scholar of Old English and the author of the “Lord of the Rings” series. I would never compare myself to him, but I can find similarities.

I still have the majority of the notes and the stories. Because I am an organization-oriented person, I have all of the stories written prior to high school in a purple binder, while the stories written during high school are in a green binder. While people usually cringe at their earlier work, I would not say that for the majority of my work, since they are evidence of my progress in writing and drawing. The languages that I made up are also evidence of my early interest in linguistics and how I will seek to expand my interest into a career.

Basque | “Sweet Promised Land,” By Robert Laxalt

This was a memoir about the author’s father, Dominique Laxalt, a Basque immigrant, and when he decided to return to the Basque country to visit his dying sister as well as to find himself.

Plot

The story doesn’t start materializing until the fourth chapter. Basically it starts with Robert talking about how his father and the rest of the family had to survive in the rough frontier. Dominique then receives news from Robert when he’s in the mountains about his dying sister. He travels there reluctantly, while being accompanied by his son.

Themes

The Basques are an ethnic group that live within the border of Spain and France in a mountainous region called the Pyrenees.

There is also a reflection of the Basque community in America. The majority of the Basque community are sheepherders, like the ones in their original homeland. There are no stereotypes about Basque-Americans, because not all of them are sheepherders. Robert’s brother is a lawyer in Washington D.C. The community, specifically in Nevada, is used to reflect the need for collective survival in this new country. Dominique even reflects that unlike the Pyrenees, the Nevada landscape is mainly desert and there’s not a lot of grazing land for the cattle and sheep, which caused deep conflict within the community.

There is also reflection of not just of Basque immigrants but also other immigrants, such as Puerto Ricans. While awaiting the plane to Bordeaux, Dominique strikes up a conversation with some of them, who talk about how they try to find the a better life than the one in Puerto Rico, but only to find similar struggles.

Dominique Laxalt

Dominique Laxalt: very conflicted especially later in the novel when it comes to his identity of being Basque and American. When he arrives at Bordeaux and travels to the town where his family is, he strikes up conversations with other Basques; some who know him, others do not. There was one man that he talked to who basically said that Basques who go to America immediately come back because the Basque country is where they belong.

In Dominique’s early years in America, it was marked with survival. Basically it involved confronting the Great Depression, scarcity of grazing land, and escalating conflict among the sheepherders. This also caused his children, including Robert, to grow up a little quicker and help him out with the cattle.

The dialogue between Robert and his father and fellow Basques often tell the anecdotes that drive the narrative into the Basque experience, whether in America or in the Pyrenees. I don’t think this diverts from the plot, in fact I think that it’s important to get a glimpse into the lives of the Basques. That way, it’s not just the author’s father who’s telling the story, but also the other Basques.

Writing Style

There are inclusion of Basque words. There’s even a non-Basque who learns the language. This helps to establish the linguistic legacy of the Basque culture in this memoir and in the narrator’s life.

I noticed there are a lot of folkish statements throughout the memoir, such as Dominique being “rich in sheep” when he first met his wife. I think that this makes the gravity of this memoir less exaggerated and more earthy.

Basque

They are a people who live in the Pyrenees region of the Iberian peninsula. What makes them unique is that their language is completely unrelated to the rest of the European languages, which therefore implies that the Basque people are themselves different as well. There has been debated as to whether they were descended from Neolithic farmers and Cro-Magnons. Though there is evidence to suggest that while the Basque genetics is uniquely archaic as compared to the rest of the European gene pool, they are not purely distinct. Either way, they have dealt with hegemony from the Spanish and the French.

Relationship To Basque Heritage

Without a doubt, Laxalt relates his memoir heavily to the Basque identity, specifically the struggle with either the Spanish or the French as the hegemonic ethnos. Laxalt’s father definitely relates having to deal with French authorities as a child prior to moving to America.

Among the people he meets in the Basque country, they tell him how important it is to preserve the Basque identity and wish to see Laxalt’s father return, which leads to him feeling conflicted.

A glorious observation from the mountains at the Sierra Nevada

This is an excellent way to start learning about the experience of Basque-Americans.

 

Laxalt, Robert. “Sweet Promised Land.” Basque Series. Harper & Row 1957. University of Nevada Press 1986.

Seneca | “The Revolutionary War Memoirs of Governor Blacksnake,” Edited by Thomas S. Abler

This was the most difficult thus far in this “Reading Native America” series. While I reviewed the previous books for two to three days, this took much longer. However, it would have been more favorable time spent if I was actually reading the actual memoirs. I should precaution anyone looking to purchase this that the majority of the content within this book contains historical commentary by the editor Thomas S. Abler.

Plot

This book is about Governor Blacksnake orally transmitting his life to a fellow Seneca Indian named Benjamin Williams. It follows his life either at the council fire or in battle. The majority of the book consists of Thomas S. Abler providing commentary about what was happening in a specific time period that included Blacksnake’s involvement.

Themes

What this book does show is that there were differences among Native Americans. In the case of the Iroquois Confederacy, the tribes within it took different sides during the American Revolution. While most of the tribes were brought on the side of Great Britain after being enticed by rum and weapons (Blacksnake’s own Seneca tribe included), the Oneidas took the side of the Americans.

Governor Blacksnake

He calls himself the nephew of the Seneca chief Cornplanter, though the definition of nephew is different from what Americans would define nephew. The parts that involve his memoir involve his life attending the council fires of the chiefs Cornplanter and Red Jacket (as well as when he becomes a Seneca chief himself), engaging in war with American revolutionaries and their Indian allies, and falling in love. However even within Blacksnake’s own memoir he tends to reference less of his life and more of the speeches his uncles give.

Writing Style

There is no elegance or prose in the writing. This was because Williams spoke poor English. Examples include no use of adverb conjugations and misspellings that replace “r” with “l.” It did help that Abler included commentary about the council fires, about the Revolutionary War, and all the other historical events that provide context to what Governor Blacksnake was talking about.

Governor Blacksnake did use metaphors in his oration. Abler mentioned that Native American chiefs often did during their council fires. He referred to America as the child and Britain as the father. He also talks about moments involving “picking up the hatchet” or going to war. At one point, he referred to the British king as the “British chief,” as though familiarizing his tribe with the Britons as a fellow tribe.

In my rough translation, one passage went as followed:

“During the night, we have talked about our intended subject to the opened council fire, concerning the quarrels of the father [Britain] and the son [America]. It was considered important for us to see clearly with our naked eyes and to open our ears to hear the truth of where we were going, and it appeared within this company the opinion of the majority wanted to see what was going on.”

Seneca

Along with the Cayuga, the Onondaga, the Oneida, the Tuscarora, and the Mohawk, they belong to the Iroquois Confederacy. Other than his council fires and meetings with US Presidents, Blacksnake does not mention how he ruled as a chief after the Revolutionary War.

As of August 2017, the tribe has 8,000 enrolled members and reservations are located in western New York. It boasts of being the 5th largest employer in the state.

Relation to Native American Heritage

There is a wealth of information that does help guide the reader past the poor writing of Williams. If there is a positive note about the commentaries, they are written to provide an explanation as well as back up what Blacksnake was saying. Though there are moments when the facts contradict the subjects Blacksnake talks about, such as the dates being a pervading example.

The Hatchet that Belongs in a Museum

Until there is a completely re-edited version of Williams’ text, I do not think this would be a text worth reading for any non-historical, autobiographical in-sight. This reading drained all of the expectation that I hoped for in this book. The purpose of this book does not serve as a riveting account of an Indian chief more than 100 years old, rather it serves more as one of the required textbooks for an Native American History class.

 

Edited by Thomas S. Abler. “Chainbreaker: The Revolutionary War Memoirs of Governor Blacksnake, as told to Benjamin Williams.” Bison Books. University of Nebraska Press. 2005.

Wampanoag | “Poneasequa: Goddess of the Water,” by Stephanie A. Duckworth-Elliott

I was fortunate enough to find a rare copy of this.

Plot

This is about a young girl named McKenzie who has to research her Wampanoag heritage in order to present it to her class. McKenzie takes the opportunity to go with her grandfather to her uncle’s farm to take care of one of his horses giving birth.

In between her chores and her ordinary life, she begins to have dreams where she is taken to the ancient Wampanoag lands as a form of self-exploration. Although the transitions between them were fluid, it is not known whether McKenzie has been known to pass out before. Not only that, but it seems that the dreaming parts at the end were more intuitive than the real world parts, which could have been the culmination of her journey.

Also there was not much action in the first half of the book in terms of McKenzie discovering her Wampanoag heritage in reality. For example, I never got to see the Wampanoag words for life-stock or plants. There would have been opportunities to tell the story via her chores, as well as her brother’s.

Themes

Culture, language, customs, gender roles, mythology, and history play a role in guiding McKenzie through her self-exploration, either through her interactions with family members or in the dream sequences. It does it well without overwhelming anyone reading, though it does tend to info-dump.

Outside of her, there is a sense of mourning that especially comes from McKenzie’s grandfather over the change that has occurred in the past and the present. By past, it refers to prior to colonization. She merely takes the opportunity to reflect on the past and present and looks forward to the future.

Characters

McKenzie develops as a character not only for her assignment but also as a human being. She gradually begins to accept and express genuine fascination over the Wampanoag life.

However it was never made clear what her main conflict was to begin with that drove her to explore her own heritage. Was she made fun of for being Native American? Or for not being “Native American enough?” There does not seem to be an more deeper in-sight into her life at her school.

She has a deep connection with her grandfather, who is the main source of information she has for research. Along with him, the rest of the adults take Wampanoag heritage very seriously and wish to impart it to the children, which include McKenzie’s brother and cousins.

Writing Style

The Wampanoag language is used throughout the book in the form of names, family titles, and words.

Because this was intended for children, I think that having an appendix dedicated entirely to pronunciation would be helpful, especially for the long, complicated names and words.

Another grievance is quite tiny and not something to dwell on, but there was a sentence that contained “…cycles and circles.” I’m definitely sure that they are both the same words.

Wampanoag

They are the Native American tribe most known for holding a feast for the Pilgrims in what would become the Thanksgiving holiday. In reality, they are a tightly knit community that live in Chaddaquiddick, Gay Head, and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

The author, Stephanie A Duckworth-Elliott, herself is heavily lettered in Native American education, since she teaches in the Aquinnah section of the Wampanoag tribe, where she originally came from.  Her ethos definitely adds to the quality of this children’s book.

Relation to Native American Heritage

McKenzie’s grandfather manages to provide a more realistic view of the Thanksgiving holiday and its original context in terms of how it applied to the Wampanoag people.

There is very intimate correlation between geography and this book. The past and present meet as McKenzie makes her internal journey. Geography is made important to McKenzie during one of her dream sequences, which I found quite astounding, as it interweaves mythology and the landscape with metaphor with this line:

“The hearts and souls of our people are within the clay of our beloved cliffs, the ones Moshup [the Giant] himself made so beautiful.”

Taking Eight Hen’s Eggs Out Of Ten

Although I try to avoid traditional review rating, I would most definitely think that this children’s book receives my fair assessment. I definitely agree with the commentaries from scholars Lisa Brooks and Joseph Bruchac on the back of the book, that this can easily be read to anyone, indigenous and non-indigenous.

 

Duckworth-Elliott, Stephanie A. “Poneasequa: Goddess of the Waters.” Wampum Books. 2009.