Monday, July 30, 2012

First Stewards #5: Natibu Amerikanu?

In choosing books for my children one of my favorite types to get for them are Native American style storybooks. Over the years I've collected several for them, each from a different tribe. When I was in Washington DC last week at the First Stewards Climate Change Symposium, I took some time out to go to the gift shop at the National Museum of the Native American Indian to see what kind of books they had. I asked my kids, Sumahi and Akli'e' what type of books they would prefer, meaning what kind of animals or stories would they like. Sumahi, as usual said she wanted horse. Sesso taiguihi i manachaamko'na na famalao'an, mankinenne' ni kabayu siha. Akli'e' is a bit more complicated and requested something about turtles. Ti hu tungo' sa' hafa ayu i ginagao-na. Sesso mama'leon gui'.

There were so many to choose from at the museum I'll admit it was difficult. I ended up picking three books. First is The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Story by Lydia Dabcovich, and tells the heartwarming story of an elderly lady who adopts a polar bear as her son. Second is Big Turtle by David Mclimans, and tells a creation story of the Iroquois, where all the world around us is built from magic soil found by a frog and placed on the back of a giant turtle. Third and finally is The Girl Who Loved Horses by Paul Goble, and it tells the story of a Plains Indian girl who loved horses so much she eventually became one of them leaving her family and village behind.

I've already started reading the stories to the kids and they love them.

One of the things that has made reading these stories difficult however is the fact that even though the book is written in English, when I read it to the kids I translate it in Chamorro and point out the action in the pictures as I speak. Most words and phrases are simple enough to translate. There are moments however where some very basic terms in English become a serious struggle to translate into Chamorro.

Sumahi truly enjoys a book titled The Ghost Dance which tells the story of Wovoka and Tavibo who were both spiritual leaders in a time of great crisis for Native Americans in the Midwest as they were losing more and more land to the US. The two men created a spiritual movement meant to re-empower their people. The movements were brutally cut down ending eventually in what is  known as the massacre at Wounded Knee.

While reading the book certain words come up where I’m not sure which way to proceed. For example, how would you translate “Native Americans” into Chamorro? The most obvious translation might be “Natibu Amerikanu” or even to get a bit fancier “Manmofo’na na Amerikanu.” But both of these are misleading because during the time period of the books tribes such as the Paiute or Sioux were not American and were being destroyed and suppressed by “Americans.” So would you name them something more indigenous, such as “taotao tano’” or “taotao natibu?” Would you just refer to them as i"taotao Sioux?" or "i taotao Paiute?" "Taotaomo'na" is another option, but this has such a fixed meaning already that few people think of it literally as the people from before, and tend to interpret it more as "spirits" or "ghosts."

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