Rebecca Whitney I choose to heal myself and others by preserving culture and language for generations to come.
My Journey to #AchieveMore
I am a writer, American Indian, linguist, and bookworm. I choose to heal myself and others by preserving culture and language for generations to come. It was Dr. Judith Maxwell, my linguistics professor, who suggested that I attend a program called Breath of Life, which caters specifically to Native Americans seeking to study their tribal languages. In today’s English-centric world, minority languages are fast disappearing, including my own heritage language, Quapaw. When language dies, culture—and by extension, identity—dies with it. When I attended Breath of Life, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by a community with the same goals, doubts, fears, and setbacks as me. I realized that it was my calling to help revitalize my heritage language, Quapaw. As an undergraduate, I completed an honors thesis in which I translated four of ten Quapaw stories that were collected in the 1890s. They have since faded from tribal memory, so inntranslating these stories, I sought to return a piece of the past to my people. At the University of Arizona, I am pursuing an M.A. in Native American languages and linguistics. For my master’s thesis, I will finish the collection of stories and format them in a way that is accessible to the community: an illustrated collection of tribal stories in English and Quapaw.
One of the major reasons that American Indians continue to suffer today is because their culture and languages are still under attack. Those who work in language revitalization seek to reverse that process. Our people need healing, and health is a multifaceted enterprise, birthed partly through community, artistic expression, language, and culture. It is through these avenues that I can best serve my community, my world, and myself.