This website is the home to the MOHEGAN LANGUAGE PROJECT. This project is a language reclamation project founded for the Brotherton Indian Nation and has slowly begun to gain attention with the Mohegan tribes as well.
Language is the heart of culture, and where many natives across America have lost their ancestor’s tongue we have the ability to claim it back again. For Brotherton, although we were born from five parent tribes, we are ONE tribe. We are Brotherton. Mohegan was the declared official language by tribal council many many many moons ago. This is why the language was chosen for Spearcarrier’s idea.
Spearcarrier has been working single-handedly on this project for more than two years (and counting). It started slow and had many setbacks but promises to continue until enough material is out to be of use to learners and speakers alike.
This project is largely thanks to Mz. Stephanie Fielding and Conor Quinn, without whose linguistic knowledge and grasp of our language this project would be a lot more difficult than it already is. Also, we all must nod and give humble thanks to Fidelia Fielding, who kept to her language even when it fell into disuse around her, and worked to preserve what she could remember. Surely without her efforts, the language as she knew it would be lost entirely.
To learn a language means you must use it. The same goes for not losing a language. Resources for practice will be added to this website – albeit slowly – with intention for you to USE them. Please do so.
Nahunshásh! Until next time we meet.
Below is a mission and funding statement presented to the Brotherton council July 17, 2020
This document covers the scope, purpose and possible direction of Katrina Joyner’s Mohegan language project. By presenting this information I hope to explain the origins of where the project started, the kind of work it represents, the investment already in place, obstacles it has overcome, and its goals.
It should be noted that the Mohegan Language Project is not the same project as the Mohegan Language Restoration Project, which was started by Stephanie Fielding. I have been calling this mission The Mohegan Language Project from the beginning because that’s what it is. If there is a name conflict, that can easily be rectified.
It is also acknowledged with great thanks that were it not for Stephanie Fielding’s help, the Mohegan Language Project would not have made it as far as it has.
MOHEGAN LANGUAGE PROJECT
The Mohegan Language Project, here forth called ‘the project’ for the sake of brevity, began as a personal endeavor by Katrina Joyner. It is an aspect of a movement to revitalize the Mohegan language. The main purpose in particular is to help facilitate the learning, use and future livelihood of the Mohegan language through entertainment. It gives us a physical presence in the world.
“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” – Rita Mae Brown.
The project provides resources to all who wish to learn Mohegan.
The Mohegan language was chosen based on council decision. The Brotherton Indian Nation website states, “Our parent tribes are Algonquian, and all spoke an Algonquian variant. Understanding was possible across the tribes, especially among the Pequot and Mohegan. However, when the members of the six tribes came together as Brothertown, English was chosen… Nonetheless, members of the Brothertown tribe have attempted to sustain the language of our ancestors and our parent tribes. Mohegan was the language that was sustained the longest by our parent tribes. It is also the language chosen by the Brothertown for study.”
Despite the Brotherton not being an actual part of the Mohegan Nation (although historically we have been referred to as such), the Mohegan language is our language just as much as it is that of the Mohegan Nation. With the challenges many tribal nations face in today’s environment, affirming our heritage and connections through this and similar projects are essential for tribal identity and stability.
The project is not a history project, although aspects of history and culture may come into play from time to time.
METHODS AND METHODOLOGY
The project currently uses a mix of submersion, memorization, practice and entertainment techniques to keep people engaged while they learn. Submersion, a “sink or swim” approach to language learning, was suggested by Stephanie Fielding at the onset. A compromise was decided upon to make it easier for people to also gain a larger vocabulary as time went on.
Games and videos are the main tools used, although other opportunities will certainly be used when and if they present themselves. Video segments are the main thing produced at this time.
Tools used to produce items for the project include but are not limited to video cameras, audio clips and music from the public domain or purchased from source providers, DAZ Studio primarily for animation, vehicles and gas in order to reach locations for video capture, internet service and other utilities, computer hardware maintenance, replacement and repair, and of course time. Lots of time and skill.
History and Framework
Learning a language is traditionally done by taking a course through formal education or being submerged in a foreign language-speaking environment. Because many tribal members are scattered across the nation, it was decided the best approach was to create an online presence where individuals with access to the internet could meet and exchange ideas and socialize. Discussion first began in the Brotherton Nation’s Facebook group but was soon moved to the Brothertown Nation Mohegan-Pequot Language Facebook group by Raven De in 2015, who placed the project creator as an admin.
To further online presence, http://www.moheganlanguage.net was established by the creator. This website is still being maintained.
Various online games were created and shared with the Facebook group. Over the years posts have been made with the Facebook group to share knowledge. Sometimes conversation has even been sparked.
On March 12, 2016, a Youtube channel was established to house videos for the project. Currently the channel holds several videos and looks forward to holding more. Most of these are segments entitled “Random Mohegan Things” teaching only a word or phrase.
On July 1 2020, a video segment series was started entitled “It’s a Mohegan Thing!” hosted by a new character named Pappie. This video represents the culmination of a planned shift in which educational segments will teach how the language works and deepen communicative understanding.
Later that same week, the creator opened a fundraiser with Kickstarter in order to raise funds that would enable the project to produce more frequently.
OBSTACLES AND CHALLENGES
The project has not moved as quickly as originally intended due to many large challenges that presented themselves. Some have been surmounted while others still present themselves to be an issue.
At the beginning, the concept of learning the Mohegan language was challenged by persons, both registered members of the nation and not, that the tribe’s official language of study be changed from Mohegan to Narragansett. This created contention and possibly discouraged participation. Focus on the Mohegan language was pursued despite outside pressure and will continue. It is the creator’s personal belief that to be involved with the project on any level, a person must accept that the language belongs to the Brotherton as much as their Mohegan cousins. Any other stance clearly creates a harmful conflict.
Participation has been low. Occasionally someone will ask a question in the group, but usually posts are made by the creator. Of the games that have been created, most were taken down due to lack of use. One was reinstated July 14 but may suffer if group members do not make use of this tool.
The creator reached out to many people in the beginning, trying to find others to participate in creating the segments, provide material, or be willing to be filmed/recorded. The only favorable response was by one male individual who had “studied the language” but was not a team player. The project has since continued as a one person endeavor with the goal in mind.
The creator was battling a deadly illness while fighting financial hardship. Many hours that could have been spent working on the project were spent trying to pay the bills or, to put it bluntly, literally dying in the hospital. With most of this appearing to have passed, the creator has been focusing more on ways to make the project sustainable.
As mentioned before, the project’s creator is holding a fundraiser in order to raise the funds to make production of the project easier and faster. The project currently has some needs that must be addressed or the project will face even more delays. These include but are not limited to:
Video equipment must be upgraded or repaired. Current owned equipment either cannot keep a battery charge long enough to be useful or has too low of a resolution to produce high quality material.
Computers get old. When the project began things went faster. Now things go slowly and with many crashes and hiccups. This must be addressed.
Software licenses must be bought as these items have to be upgraded or replaced.
Video footage, music and other important materials have always been taken from the public domain or generated by the creator. This not only has slowed production as hunting for clips or making them can be very time consuming, but it has also created a conflict. Items have been flagged due to violations and one had rights claimed by a copyright pirate. That last bit was cleared, but it is apparent that buying rights from providers would speed things up while eliminating many problems.
Travel to film original footage, which should happen from time to time in order to give the project a firm foundation with the tribe and give the project originality and legal stability, also requires resources.
Film created “in house” requires other equipment such as light rings, SD cards, filters, and many other bits of equipment one would normally take for granted.
Should the project finally get to the point other people could be hired to help with voice over segments or even to perform in front of the camera, this would require large funds in order to pay them and handle other financial matters that surface in these conditions.
The utilities needed to run all of these also take a financial toll.
As stated before, to remedy problems addressed there are two options open. The first is to take Stephanie Fielding up on her suggestion, write out a grant, and go through tribal council for funding providing creative freedom is 100% preserved. The second is to see the fundraiser, and other fundraisers like it, succeed.
The option for sponsors cannot be considered. A sponsor would mean the loss of creative autonomy. When a film or creative project is sponsored, many times a lot of creative decisions have to be cleared through the sponsor in order to protect company reputations and avoid other legal matters. Not only would that slow things down, but it may stifle teaching some words.
The best example I can provide on that matter would be the word ôhkupi (liquor). There are about four Brotherton words preserved in the lexicon, one of which is minshkàdawap, which also means liquor. Some sponsors may object to any video covering this topic at all, which would stifle preserving this word.
All funding to be considered is done so with the thought of keeping red tape to a minimum in order to preserve speed of production. The same philosophy goes towards team building: unless people can be paid participation that may involve legal rights and privileges is kept to a minimum.
The project will continue to create. The new segments are going to follow the information documents produced by Stephanie Fielding and the Mohegan Nation in order to explain how the language works while presenting new items to learn. When that information is covered to the end of the documents, production will shift to other segments.
At some point, the project would like to begin producing serialized segments telling a story. These would include translated plays, fairy tales, and other material. These segments would be subtitled under the philosophy of learning the language the way some anime fans learn Japanese while watching their favorite anime.
At the suggestion of Tim Belcher, different level memory card games are planned that will feature original artwork by the creator. The point of these games will be to increase vocabulary. There will be other such projects planned when these are achieved.
The project hopes to see a day in which tribal members speak the language openly and may even submit or produce their own work.
The Mohegan Language Project was created not just for the creator to learn the language, but for others to learn. So far what has been put out there seems to be working well for those that have seen them.
Despite the lack of participation on some levels, the video segments created for the project appear to have been well received by those that find them.
If the Kickstarter fundraiser succeeds, the ability to choose what will be done in any given day will be made that much easier.
Stephanie Fielding has offered to write a grant that would go through the tribe to facilitate a payment schedule to the creator, which would ease some of the financial restrictions the project faces.
Despite the delay, finally getting to the stage where Pappie is introduced means the project is moving forward with a fighting chance.
The project will continue despite the presence or lack of tribal participation, but it is the hope of the creator that pushing forward will not continue to go unnoticed.
Thank you for your time and attention.