Summer / Fall 2008 FLAS Fellow Reports
The Center has a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Grant from the US Department of Education to support graduate research on Canada and language acquisition. Following are reports from the Center's FLAS Fellows.
2008-2009 Former FLAS Fellows
Envisioning shxwqwәltәn - The Sounds of Musqueam
By Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrook
|Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrook at mәqw:em, also known as "Camosum Bog," an important site in the Musqueam people's origin story in British Columbia.
Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrook is an ethnoecologist in her third year of doctoral studies in Anthropology. Her work focuses on environmental perception and people-plant relationships, with an emphasis on Coast Salish territories. Joyce was awarded a 2008-09 Academic Year FLAS Fellowship for Salish.
With the support of a Center FLAS Fellowship, and the generosity of the Musqueam people of Vancouver, British Columbia, I was able to spend the year studying hәńq'әmińәm, the downriver dialect of Halkomelem, a Coast Salish language spoken along the Fraser River and the east side of Vancouver Island. My aim is to develop a deeper appreciation of the linkages between language and the way we perceive our relationships to the land.
For example, there is the elaborate vocabulary and poetics of the language that reflect the Musqueams' maritime orientation. With practice, words like sliqwәl (smooth, calm water) and k'wәwyәkw (fish hook) begin to roll off the tongue and into the mind in such a way that one begins to see the landscape differently. Our instructor, Musqueam elder Larry Grant, emphasizes the importance of preserving the distinctiveness of the up and downriver dialects - the fuzzy boundary between them apparently coinciding with the upper limits of the salt water's slack tide, which makes an upriver canoe journey relatively effortless.
Memorizing Musqueam geography has been an important part of our education, and one place in particular has become especially significant to me. Mәqw:em, or Camosum Bog, figures prominently in Musqueam history. Their origin story tells of a two-headed monster, seelthkey, who slithered down to what is now the main Musqueam Reserve, leaving the Musqueam creek bed and a plant "unlike any other" in its wake. The plant is called muthkwey, and this is how the Musqueam people got their name. What is left of the bog is now being restored, and culturally important plants like Labrador tea and bog cranberry are flourishing there. It is, however, unsettling to see no mention of the Musqueam people on any of the bog's interpretive signs, which instead emphasize the importance of preserving what’s left of this unique and "pristine" ecosystem. I wonder if it really is possible to restore mәqw:em without also acknowledging the history and knowing something of the language of this place.
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Jennifer Leider is a graduate student in the Evans School of Public Affairs and received a FLAS for Summer 2008 in French.
My summer in Montréal was an amazing experience. The city has a great mix of Francophone and Anglophone history and culture. The intensive French program at a school in the heart of Old Montréal provided a great chance to improve my language skills from an intermediate to an advanced level. The experience inspired me to consider a PhD focusing on civil society in Québec.
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Erin Maloney is a graduate student in Ethnomusicology and received a FLAS for the 2008-2009 Academic year in French.
My research this quarter focuses on the role of music and media in the collective and layered identity in Québec; particularly in regards to national and ethnic identity. I am examining neo-traditional music to gain an understanding of what culture québécoise means in 21st century, as Québec becomes an increasingly cosmopolitan society.
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Julia Colleen Miller
Julia Colleen Miller is a graduate student in Linguistics and received a 2008-2009 Academic year FLAS in Dane-Zaa.
This fall my FLAS language work has focused on translating and transcribing conversations and stories that I collected in May at a Dane-zaa language workshop held in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Elders shared stories ranging from early contact with European settlers to how life has changed due to the gas and oil industry. These recordings are providing me with linguistic data for a phonetic analysis of tone for my doctoral research. In addition, I will also be returning these materials to the participating communities in the form of subtitled videos for their language documentation and revitalization efforts.
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|FLAS Fellow for Inuktitut since 2005, Timothy Pasch defended his thesis this past August. Tim (Center) celebrates with committee members following the exam. Committee Chair Tony Chan, Communication, is on the background screen being "beamed" in from Toronto with Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, Information School, and Klaus Brandl, Scandinavian Studies (Graduate School Representative). Other committee members included Richard Kielbowicz and Gerry F. Philipsen, both from Communication, and Nadine Fabbi, Canadian Studies Center.
Timothy Pasch recently completed his dissertation in Communication and was a Summer 2008 FLAS recipient for Inuktitut.
Thanks to the FLAS Fellowship, the Canadian Studies Center, and the study of Inuktitut and the Inuit people of Nunavik, my academic program has been enriched beyond my expectations. Not only have my research and dissertation taken on aspects and elements far more wide-reaching than previously thought possible, my personal and professional experiences living with an Inuit family in the Arctic have also been the highlight of my entire graduate school life.
I would like to thank Nadine Fabbi, Dan Hart, Mary Ann Curtis, the Avataq Inuit Cultural Center (Inukjuaq), and Donat Savoie of the Canadian Department for Indian and Northern Affairs for their generosity, confidence, and for being, to put it simply - wonderful! I would also like to thank Mick Mallon, my first Inuktitut instructor, who was injured in a crevasse in Nunavut. I am glad to report that Mick is fully recovered and is continuing his work promoting and preserving Inuktitut in the North. He is a real trouper - and also one of the world’s leading Inuktitut teachers and scholars. We are thrilled that he’s back in the field. Nakurmiik, Thank you, Merci!
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Familiar Faces Two Worlds Apart
By Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago is a student in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. He was awarded a 2008-09 Academic Year FLAS Fellowship for French, and is currently completing his master’s thesis.
Finishing the Peace Corps in July and heading to Montréal that same month was an incredibly exhausting experience. The switch from river bathing to hot showers was just one of many welcome changes. The last two years working with Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic solidified my interests in health disparities, HIV/AIDS, and migration. I learned that life as a migrant was one of survival in many cases, a grueling fight only exacerbated in the developing world. In a matter of weeks I had left these tough circumstances to pursue my academic interests as a FLAS Fellow in Montréal, Canada – home to 80,000 Haitian migrants and descendants. Although to a lesser extent, the Haitian community of Montréal has a similar story to the one I observed in the Dominican Republic. The life of a migrant is beset with extraordinary challenges as he or she attempts to integrate into society and create a home away from home. Compared to the general Canadian population, Canadians of Haitian descent have worse health outcomes, particularly with regard to HIV prevalence. The objectives of my thesis are to document the knowledge, attitudes, and practices concerning HIV/AIDS in Canadian youth of Haitian descent.
As a FLAS Fellow, I've been fortunate to be able to continue my French studies at McGill University. Language skills have been fundamental to each of my international experiences. With improved French, I’ve been able to meet with key research subjects and conduct research in French-speaking Canada. The fellowship has also provided me with the time and resources to take an in-depth and comparative look at the Canadian and American health care systems through independent study. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue my interests and better define my career goals as a FLAS Fellow, and I look forward to continuing my time in Montréal this coming year.
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