Culture

Many Native Languages Are Dying Off But Here’s How Indigenous Millennials Are Using Tech To Save Them

The Americas are one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. In fact, in Mexico alone there are 68 different Native languages spoken. But many of those Native speakers point out that this diversity and cultural richness is under threat.

At a recent speech in Mexico’s House of Deputies, Doraly Velasco León, speaking in her native Pápago, spoke about the difficulties of preserving the language of her ancestral land, which has been divided by the border between Mexico and the United States.

“Only eight speakers [of pápago] remain, including the one addressing you today . . . Our language is in its death throes, but not our world view or our historical memory, because we have left perennial footprints in our path along those lands that sustain our lives, in our songs and traditions.”

She denounced the extinction of her native tongue, charging that it was not a natural occurrence, but rather the result of borders and walls that divide the lands she and her people call home. Her and other tech-savvy Millennials – from Canada to Brazil – are working hard to preserve their heritage and traditions through apps and technology partnerships.

Tech-savvy Millennials are fighting to preserve their culture and language.

Across the Americas, Indigenous languages are disappearing at alarming rates. For example, in Canada’s British Columbia, the majority of Native languages are already at risk of total extinction.

Many experts and human rights activists agree that Indigenous communities are facing a cultural epidemic, one that is leaving Millennials scrambling to save their endangered heritage.

Across several Canadian First Nations, tech-savvy Millennials have helped to set up organizations that aim to increase access to technology for Indigenous communities. Many point out that technology and the Internet are colonized spaces that have more information created about Native tribes than content that’s actually created by Indigenous communities.

Denise Williams, the First Nations Technology Council executive director, believes that Indigenous people have already used the limited tech tools available to embrace progress and independence—on their own terms. “It’s really important that Indigenous people lead our technological progress, and that it’s never the current dominant paradigm shaping how we will use the technological tools available,” she told VICE News.

Goozih as well as other technological initiatives driven by Indigenous millennials aren’t just practical solutions. In fact, they’re catalysts for cultural empowerment.

The app’s co-founder admits that they’re not exactly knowledgeable on how to formally teach their languages but that the mere existence of the app will be a huge catalyst to get people to connect with their elders.

Thanks to colonialism, there are many roadblocks stopping some Indigenous people from embracing technology.

For many Indigenous people, technology is viewed as a symbol of colonialism and forced oppression – so it carries with it a very negative connotation.

Williams points out to VICE News that Indigenous memories of colonialism may bar them from embracing modern technology. “One of the original ways contemporary technology was introduced to First Nations communities across Canada was by the federal government,” she explains.

Even today, she says, the First Nations Technology Council faces resistance from some community members who view tech as a symbol of colonial oppression. 

For many, the process is a very emotional one as they rush to save traditions.

Credit: INAH / Gobierno de Mexico

One of fewer than 500 speakers of Kumeeyaay, Norma Alicia Meza Calles said that a lack of attention from the government has played a role in the death of her language.

“We aren’t folklore. We are a form of life that needs to be treated with respect. We are those who take care of our environment . . . at times confronting the same government that grants permits without taking us into account,” she said in an interview.

“Public services are not part of our lives, but we still defend our lands . . . from people who have no love for their heritage. The hills, the trees, the animals are our brothers and we take care of them.”

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This App Can Tell You The Indigenous History Of The Land You Live On

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This App Can Tell You The Indigenous History Of The Land You Live On

Erika Reid / Getty Images

Wondering about the Indigenous heritage of your city, your neighborhood or even your street? Well, there’s an app for that. Native Land, a Canadian nonprofit, has mapped Indigenous territories across North America, South America, and parts of Europe and Asia. 

For all the selfish and banal uses of social media out there, sometimes developers use the geolocative capabilities of smartphones to make the world a more inclusive place.

This app looks at the history of a place and reveals how it was originally organized by the traditional owners of the land before processes of colonization and dispossession reshaped the maps of what is now known as the Americas. This app is digitizing Indigenous history, so next time you step on indigenous land you can quietly acknowledge it. 

Native Land is the app to better understand the extent of Indigenous communities around the world.

Whose land are you on? Start with a visit to native-land.ca. Native Land is both a website and an app that seeks to map Indigenous languages, treaties, and territories across Turtle Island. You might type in New York, New York, for example, and find that the five boroughs are actually traditional Lenape and Haudenosaunee territory.

On the website and in the app, you can enter the ZIP code or Canadian or American name for any town. The interactive map will zoom in on your inquiry, color-code it, and pull up data on the area’s Indigenous history, original language, and tribal ties.

The project is run by Victor Temprano out of British Columbia, Canada. A self-described “settler,” he said that the idea came to him while driving near his home—traditional Squamish territory. He saw many signs in the English language with the Squamish original place names indicated in parentheses underneath. He thought to himself, “Why isn’t the English in brackets?”

As a ongoing project, the app clearly states that: “This map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in question. Also, this map is not perfect — it is a work in progress with tons of contributions from the community. Please send us fixes if you find errors”.

Ready to find out more about the place that you call home? Click here

Remember: maps are only political and not set on stone, so the map you know was drawn by colonial powers.

Credit: Native Land

Contrary to what we might believe, maps are hardly set in stone. In fact, how a territory is named and where boundaries sit is evidence of historical processes through which lands are taken.

Just look at this map of North America and think about all the blood that has been shed by the original owners of the land just so we can identify only three countries today. There were hundreds of discreet ethnic groups in Canada, Mexico and the United States before the European superpowers of Britain, France and Spain landed and created havoc. 

But the past is past, right? So why should we care? Well, we should care, a lot, particularly in today’s political climate. Let’s take this map of the California area as an example.

Credit: Native Land

So why is becoming familiar with the indigenous past of place important? Because it tells us that the borders that exist today are practically a human invention rather than something set in stone, and that unless you have Indigenous heritage, we are all guests.

California, for example, was populated by a wide variety of peoples who were conquered by the Spanish or assimilated into mestizo culture through religion and language. So when white supremacists get all “America for the Americans” on Brown folk, they should be reminded that the land is and has always been Indigenous.

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Julio Rivera Created The Meditation App Liberate To Help The Black Community Heal

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Julio Rivera Created The Meditation App Liberate To Help The Black Community Heal

Courtesy of Julio Rivera

Mental health is so important. There are so many ways to work on your mental health and meditation is one of them. Julio Rivera, an Afro-Latinx software engineer, was tired of the all-white meditation world he experienced and decided to do something about it. With the help of the Apple App Store’s big presence and marketing tools, Liberate has reached the audience who needs it most.

Julio Rivera is the creator of Liberate, a meditation app.

Rivera started his journey into meditation started five years ago. The practice helped him with managing his stress and anxiety in a natural and healthy way. Rivera had struggled with drugs and alcohol to cope but meditation became a different kind of escape and he wanted to get deeper into it.

“I downloaded an app called Headspace and that’s where my meditation journey began and I really started to notice changes in my stress and anxiety levels,” Rivera says. “From that, I realized, ‘Wow. This was really helping me.’”

Rivera got involved with meditation thanks to an app.

Rivera found Headspace, a meditation app to help him get familiar with meditation. After a while, Rivera wanted a more personal experience in meditation because the app wasn’t cutting it for him because of the overwhelmingly white presence. This was the time before Covid when meeting in person was a safe and acceptable thing to do.

“I started attending different in-person meditation communities in New York City and after trying out a few communities I landed in a community-specific for supporting people of color,” Rivera recalls. “I remember walking into the room and seeing all of these beautiful Black and brown faces, mostly and just feeling at home and at ease. Like I was back with family being a Black and Latinx man.”

Rivera further explains that meditating in predominantly white spaces hinders the healing power of meditation. The lack of Black and brown voices and faces in his previous meditation experiences left him unable to feel completely at ease.

Rivera’s experience in these spaces is why he created Liberate.

Liberate was born of a need to have spaces to talk about, tackle, and dismantle internalized racism that is forced on people. Rivera saw a need for a Black space in the meditation world to give Black people a chance to deal with this issue. Society’s racist ideals have been perpetuated to a point that people have internalized that notion.

“When I looked at apps at the time, nobody was really looking at the experience of some who identifies as Black, indigenous, or a person of color,” Rivera says. “That’s when I felt called to us my background in mobile apps startups. I was a software engineer for a very long time. I felt like this was a calling to be of service and to start Liberate.”

Rivera harnessed his software engineer experience and created a place for Black people to find peace. Liberate is a place for the Black community to work through the anti-Blackness that has been so prevalent in American society for centuries.

Rivera is grateful for Apple’s work in getting Liberate out there.

The Apple App Store has been a driving force in getting Liberate out there to the necessary community. Apple has joined other major companies in highlighting Black-owned and Black-created products. This goes for Liberate.

Liberate was included in a list of apps created by and for communities of color. The collection of apps called “Stand Up to Racism” highlights apps including Liberate, StoryCorps, and Black Nation. The intention is to give people a chance to discover and support Black-owned businesses and apps.

Apple offers a diverse array of apps to support people in various communities. Mental health is very important during Covid and apps like Liberate are paving the way for communities of color to openly discuss the importance of taking care of mental health.

READ: Here’s Why An Afro-Latino Decided To Make A New Meditation App Just For People Of Color

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