Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Publishes Language Dictionary
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SANTA YNEZ, Calif., April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians unveiled its newly-published language dictionary, "The Samala-English Dictionary -- A Guide to the Samala Language of the Ineseno Chumash People," at a dictionary launch party Friday evening at the tribe's Chumash Casino Resort. (Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080421/LAM073) "The dictionary launch party last week marked a special occasion for our tribe and one in which we will be talking about for decades to come," said Vincent Armenta, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. "Our tribe's dream to publish a dictionary of our language came true. It represents just the beginning of our journey to revitalize our language." In 2003 Chairman Armenta directed his staff to research the steps required to begin resurrecting the tribe's native language. Since the last known Samala speaker passed away in the 1960s, learning the language from tribal elders was not an option for the tribe. Instead, research led the tribe to Richard Applegate, Ph.D. While a graduate student at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, Applegate spent countless hours in the basement of Dwinelle Hall at UC Berkeley combing through boxes of documents from John Peabody Harrington, a linguist and ethnologist who specialized in the native people of California. "I would take one of Harrington's manuscript pages and read something like 'skut a hacu' [he sees the dog] with no idea at first which part of the phrase meant what," said Applegate. "Little by little it began to make sense, like filling in the squares of a giant crossword puzzle. I became absorbed in the language." When the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians contacted Applegate in 2003 to take the first step of what would eventually be a full-fledged language program, he was pleased to once again become immersed in a language that had become near and dear to his heart. The tribe began with Samala language classes for children and adults and from there decided to expand the program to include a language dictionary. The tribe's Education Committee took the concept before the general membership and received overwhelming support for moving forward on creating a comprehensive, encyclopedia-type dictionary. "Without exception, tribal members were very excited to begin the process of publishing our language dictionary," said Sarah Moses, Chair of the tribe's Education Committee. "In fact, one of the comments from a tribal member about the concept of a dictionary was, 'it's about time.'" Applegate's 1972 Ph.D. dissertation on Samala grammar was full of linguistic terms like "morpheme boundary" and "nominalization" so it wasn't a user-friendly way to learn the language. It was also organized around the root of the word and you had to know the root of a word before looking it up. Transforming the academic version of the dictionary into a user-friendly format took significant editing on Applegate's part. In addition, the art direction from designer Ted Frank required a careful balance of creativity and sensitivity to the tribe's desire to use photographs that featured tribal members and illustrations that were specific to the words in the dictionary. All told, there are 600+ pages and 4,000 entries in the Samala dictionary and more than half of those entries are illustrated with a photograph or illustration. "It was a multi-year project that was painstakingly created by a team of people," said Chairman Armenta. "For starters, there was collaboration among various committees, including the Business Committee, Education Committee and Elders Governing Board. In addition, various departments worked together including the Education Department and Public Relations. Art director Ted Frank and Dr. Applegate spent a lot of time coordinating and discussing the specifics of publishing such a massive project. And, of course, the tribal membership championed the entire process and waited patiently for the end result." Armenta said that the wait was worth it. "Our language and culture refused to die and now it will live forever through our dictionary," said Chairman Armenta. Located on the Santa Ynez Reservation in Santa Ynez, California, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians own and operate the Chumash Casino Resort, the Royal Scandinavian Inn and McCormix gas station. SOURCE Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Frances Snyder, +1-805-325-1187, email@example.com, for The Santa Ynez Band Of Chumash Indians