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"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."

Col 3:23

Language Repositories

If a Native nation, community or organization wishes to explore options for building a language repository or becoming part of a language repository system, the first thing to know is that there are two major types of language repositories: 1) an electronic repository and 2) a physical repository. Both types of repositories are detailed in this Chapter. A glossary of terms used for each type of repository can be found in Appendix A, Glossary of Terms.

A physical repository may or may not contain electronic repository features and there is, of course, some physicality to an electronic repository. It is likely that most of the existing physical repositories and nearly all the new ones soon will house an electronic repository, will contain electronic repository features or will join an electronic repository system.

It should be noted that any exploration of a language repository begins with a discussion of what needs to be archived and what should be archived.

A coalition of tribes or language communities may wish to combine efforts and resources, in order to preserve unique, original or other materials, and consider building a physical repository. Exploration of this option would begin with the same question: what is to be archived?

The NMAI Project Team and Advisory Work Group (AWG) agree that the federal government should fund the startup and operation of Native languages repositories.

The Project Team and AWG also agree that the federal government should set up a national electronic repository and that it should contain only those materials which Native nations or coalitions of language communities permit to be included.

AWG Members reviewing this Chapter think that materials in a national electronic repository should be copied with equipment that creates both electronic and archival film copies, and that each participating tribe or community should get electronic and film copies of their materials. Project Team Members reviewing this Chapter do not think that it is necessary for a language program to have a physical copy of every paper, book, recording, film or other item. The priority need is access to the information inside the item. If the information were digitized, it could be even more useful than the physical item.

AWG Members and Project Team Members want the reader to be aware that electronic subject indexes reflect the cultural biases of the indexers, just as subject indexes do in physical repositories, and that the way in which material is searched for and organized affects the time, cost, effectiveness and every aspect of electronic repositories.

AWG Members reviewing this Chapter favor making materials available in searchable text, or a word/phrase index, rather than a subject index. Project Team Members caution that a word/phrase index has its own limitations (it cannot search out film, for example). The reader should be aware that there is great competition at this time to develop more effective search technology. Among the most promising on the immediate horizon is for contextual searches, rather than word/phrase or subject indexes.

The Project Team and AWG are in agreement that there should be a two-part repository system, both physical and electronic, and that the federal government should assist Native nations and language communities in whatever repository option they choose. A language repository, no matter what type, has two main goals. The first is to create a documentary record of a language as it exists at a certain period of time. The second is to provide supplementary materials for efforts to revitalize and renew endangered languages.

In pursuing these goals a repository can be created with a high degree of sophistication or can be much simpler in its design.

A highly professional repository would contain the following elements:

1. Extensive, innovative language documentation that includes the creation of written and sound archives of Native American languages, thereby preserving for the future as much material as possible in a variety of formats;

2. Use of those documentary records as the basis for creating an array of teaching materials that will help preserve and revitalize these languages;

3. Use of the latest technology to create and provide access to both documentary records and teaching materials; and

4. A multidisciplinary capability for the creation of teaching materials that combine methods and insights from linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and education to produce the most effective learning tools possible.

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