Before the Americas were discovered that had been inhabited with peoples that had a long and very rich history and an amazing culture. Everything changed as the process of colonization started. Today, however, governments of various countries develop programs that help restore the culture of indigenous people. A lot of universities offer degrees in Indigenous People Studies and Indigenous Languages. The more and more attention is paid to the issue of restoration and developing these unique, old cultures and languages.
The Importance of Indigenous Studies
It has been widely discussed if preservation of the Indigenous language is a necessary thing to do. Some scholars believe that all we should do is to record language data and learn as much as possible about a particular language but let it go its own way. If the language is supposed to become extinct, it should become extinct because this is a part of the language process without which there would have been no progress. Other scholars think that it is important to do whatever it takes to preserve languages because they are reflections of unique Indigenous cultures and are the source of these cultures’ independency. Although the debate still exists, a lot of universities keep offering courses in various languages in order to preserve them.
Why is it so important to learn about Indigenous people? First of all, this culture is an integral part of cultures of numerous countries, but, unfortunately, people know nothing about it because they do not get the necessary education. This is why in Canada, for example, the courses in Indigenous Studies have become so popular and now are offered at every single Canadian institution. According to Indigenous Studies professors, Canadians are very ignorant in this sense, and taking this course makes a huge difference because it helps them get rid of all the wrong stereotypes they have about the native population of their own country. It is interesting how people tend to learn so much about foreign countries and exotic nations but forget to look around and see how exotic and exciting their own country and culture are.
The history of Indigenous people is inseparably connected to the history of Americans, Canadians, and many other nations. Through media we often get a lot of incorrect information about these nations, and we build our own stereotypes without knowing where the truth is. This is why it is a very good idea to take classes in Indigenous Studies just to see how our own culture was created and how it was influenced. In the USA and Canada so many streets, cities, states, rivers, and other numerous objects bear Indian names – and we all take it for granted and do not even try to do research and see how deep the Native population’s culture is and how much it influenced us.
Mythology and Culture Through Language
If you are interested in some particular area, you will find answers to your questions taking these classes. You can learn all kinds of different things, starting from Indigenous Literatures to pre-med classes. Not only will you learn more about an unknown culture – you will discover an absolutely different point of view and a completely different way to perceive the world around you. Even the grammar of Indigenous languages reflects their unique sense of reality, their philosophy and mythology. For instance, one of the Australian aboriginal languages, Dyirbal, has a very interesting noun class and gender system. It has four classes of nouns, and certain concepts belong to a particular class.
For example, the first class contains such concepts as men, most snakes, kangaroos, spears, most insects, some birds, etc. The second class contains the concepts of women, some fishes, most birds, sun and stars, anything connected with fire or water, etc. The third class contains all trees that bear edible fruit, and the fourth one – parts of the body, meet, grass, most trees and so on. The system seems very complicated and rather unclear, but if you study the Dyirbal culture better, you will find logic in such a distribution. The semantic and mythological aspects are very strong. According to Dyirbal mythology, all the birds are incarnations of dead women souls. However, there are birds that are considered to be men – this is why they belong to the first class of nouns. Likewise, in this mythology the moon must be a man, whereas the sun and the stars have feminine nature. In fact, there are a lot of rules that create such a complex system, but all of them are very logical and go deep to the people’s history, culture, and mythology.
When we learn about this, we enrich our inner world because we tend to look at the reality from different angles. We start to perceive the complexity of this world and of all the numerous nations that live in it. Indigenous Studies might be helpful for all of us because the culture of Indigenous people is absolutely different and has nothing to do with our vision of this life. We all need not only to learn the history of the countries we live in, but also to experience different approaches to this life. Thus, we can become more understanding and tolerant people that do not see this world only in black and white colours. We can be better people for our society – the world community – if we keep in mind how different and beautiful each nation is.