Our Coverage of Climate Change
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Producers and reporters from American Public Media (SOF/Marketplace/American RadioWorks) are gathering to discuss collective climate change reporting. I will be tweeting ideas and following the comments section here.
What’s the story we want to tell, and how do we want to tell it? I’m glad to bring your suggestions into the large and small group discussions. Please help as we’re planning shows for the coming year — leading up to and following on the heels of Copenhagen conference in December.
A Better Life: Creating the American Dream
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
Our organization has done some shifting and reorganization in recent months and one of the immediately rewarding upshots for me is that I’ve been spending a little bit of my time with other programs produced here at American Public Media, including American RadioWorks. ARW is an award-winning documentary unit, and it is a real privilege to be involved with them. As part of the APM cross-program project, “The Next American Dream,” they produced this fabulous video. Enjoy!
Wangari Maathai in Print
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
Nancy just found this poster featuring a past guest of ours on the Web site for Just Seeds, a creative collective that unites artists who “believe in the power of personal expression in concert with collective action to transform society.” They don’t appear to have the poster for sale, but you can grab a postcard of the print.
Language Reclamation, Not Just Preservation
by Rob McGinley Myers, associate producer
What inspires a person to learn the language of his ancestors, even though he didn’t grow up speaking that language himself? And what inspires him to join a school where he can teach that language to children? What do those children think about the language? And what affect can the effort have on an entire community?
These were a few of the questions I had for Keller Paap, a teacher in an Ojibwe immersion school program called Waadookodaading (We Help Each Other) on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in north-central Wisconsin. I got in touch with Paap while I was working on our recent program “Sustaining Language, Sustaining Meaning.” You can hear his story in the embedded audio above. He begins by introducing himself in Ojibwe.
What I gleaned from talking to Paap was that this language revitalization effort is doing more than merely preserving the language. It’s literally keeping the language alive so that it can continue to grow and change, with new words and new ways of saying things. I love the way he describes his students’ relationship to the language. They aren’t dwelling on the long-standing U.S. policy of forcibly educating Native Americans in English. They aren’t learing Ojibwe as a political act or even as a cultural act. They’re just living in it, and making it their own.
This audio piece was produced with help from Trent Gilliss and Mitch Hanley. Music by Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band. Keller Paap took the photo of the Ojibwe road sign, which translates as “The Dam.”
How an Idea Becomes a Show
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer
Each week at SOF, we get together in a small conference room to talk about the upcoming production schedule and other mundane matters, and for the last 15 minutes or so we toss around potential future topics for shows. A few months ago, I tossed out a vague idea for a show about endangered languages. This weekend that vague idea becomes a reality as our show “Sustaining Language, Sustaining Meaning.”
Coming up with a good idea for a show is the easy part. What’s hard is finding the right person to speak on that topic. In this case, Krista wanted to find someone who was trying to save the language of his or her own people, who could also speak about how the loss of that language could result in the loss of cultural and spiritual practices. But there are thousands of endangered languages around the world. Where to start?
I went down several blind alleys — contacting the Living Tongues Institute, doing Nexis searches, e-mailing linguists — before I made the lucky decision to contact the novelist David Treuer. I was familiar with his work, I knew he was Ojibwe and that he had a background in anthropology, so I thought he might know someone who was working on a language revitalization project. He wrote back to my e-mail the next day.
You’ve come to the right place! I just published an article in the LA Times about that very subject. In addition to writing and teaching I am involved (with a group of others) in efforts to preserve and protect the Ojibwe language. Our most recent effort is research (recording, translating) aimed at creating the very first Ojibwe grammar book; work which runs parallel to spiritual and ceremonial work.
Suddenly, this huge, unwieldy topic of endangered languages had acquired a specific language — Ojibwe — and on the day Krista interviewed him, David Treuer helped bring into focus the specific people engaged in trying to save that language. My favorite moment in that interview was the story David tells of interviewing the Ojibwe elder Eugene Stillday, who recounted a childhood moment of sitting in his house when his entire family was sick with influenza, and the only thing that kept him from freaking out was staring at the flickering light in the stove. To me, that light in the stove seemed like a metaphor for the language itself. The light helped keep Eugene Stillday calm, and the language helped keep the memory of that day alive.
That story became even more real when David Treuer’s brother, Anton, sent us the actual recording of Eugene Stillday telling the story in Ojibwe. We wanted more recordings of Ojibwe speakers, but Anton Treuer was leaving town, so David suggested I check with his friend Keller Paap, an Ojibwe immersion school teacher in Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, it was Keller’s last week of school before summer, which is always chaotic for a teacher. He said he would try to find some recordings, but it took him a little while to dig through what he had. As our deadline for finishing the show crept closer and closer, I kept checking my inbox. Then, just in time, Keller sent me his recordings, and they were magic. We used the sound of him speaking Ojibwe to his three-year-old son at the top of the show, and we closed the show with the recording of him singing an Ojibwe song he wrote with his students.
It was amazing to finally hear all those pieces fit together. To me this is what radio is all about: the marriage of words and sounds that go beyond words. David Treuer has some profound things about the power of language to keep culture alive, but hearing Keller Paap literally passing that language onto his son and the enthusiasm of his students singing in Ojibwe, that just makes the whole thing real.
YERT, Sustainability, and the Value of Beauty
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
We recently had the folks from YERT visit to ask Krista a few questions about environmentalism and sustainability. YERT (an acronym for “Your Environmental Road Trip”) is an “eco-expedition to explore and personalize environmental sustainability.” Prompted by Trent and Colleen’s suggestion, I grabbed a video camera and headed up to get some footage of their interview with Krista, and asked them a few questions about their project.
You’ll see YERT’s Mark, Ben, and Erica talk about their mission, and a bit of Krista discussing what she learned from Majora Carter. You can also hear Krista’s conversation with Majora in our program “Discovering Where We Live: Reimagining Environmentalism.”I definitely took something from YERT’s visit as well: Mark seemed to be pretty excited about vermicompost (he mentioned composting with worms a few times), so I did a little research and found some plans to make my own little worm farm. I took some time over Memorial Day weekend to set up the compost bin, now I’m just missing one (rather important) ingredient — anybody know where I can find some good worms?
The Rockefeller Grounds
Kate Moos, Managing Producer
After a debrief session on the Consumed series we got a tour of the Rockefeller home and its grounds, where modern scultpures tumble casually—Serra, Calder, Brancusi—unbelievable. The house is full of H’an Dynasty porcelain, modern art, and a basement full of murals fashioned after Picassos. Here’s a shot from the verandah overlooking the beautiful Hudson River as late afternoon sun brilliantly turns to dusk.