Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Intertribal Deaf Conference

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Transcript: interview
Damara Paris

region one

"I'm the President of Intertribal Deaf Council. It's an organization, a nonprofit organization -- based in Salem, Oregon -- providing services to people who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard-of-hearing. And who are also American Indian, Alaska Native,"

region 2
"or First Nations Indian."

region 3
"Nationally, for over-all deafness, we do not have enough interpreters, sign language interpreters, as it is. And, when you look for somebody who is of the same culture as we are, it's very difficult to find someone who's skilled in being able to translate and, at the same time has some knowledge, some background knowledge, of our culture. So, there is a desperate need for more interpreters, who are multicultural, to get into the field."

region 4

"A lot of people think that American Sign Language is a very easy language to learn, that it's broken English, when it's not. It's a language in its own. It has its own syntax, and historical context, within it."

region 5

"For example, tribal nations: it would be really great to see more recruitment and outreach for tribal nations. Because it's a very good job for people from our communities to get in the first place. Because it pays pretty good as a sign language interpreter. And also, it makes us feel more comfortable to be with someone who is from our own, cultural background."

region 6

"If you think about American Sign Language, you have the sign for "medicine," or "doctor." And you use the sign for "doctor," in that context. But, in our culture, that has a different meaning. It has more of a spirtual meaning. So you use a different sign. So that, sometimes [inaudible "pretty basic"?] things can become confusing, if you don't have an understanding of that cultural background."

region 7

"You have to realize we belong to two, different communities. We belong to the deaf community, which has its own historical context, language and mores. And, then, we belong to the tribal nations which also has, in itself, its own set of heritage, beliefs and traditions. What concerns me is that, what I'm seeing is, more and more, American Indians who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are becoming more involved in the deaf community and less involved in the Native communities. It's because there's not enough communication there to facilitate between them and tribal members."

region 8

"And our goal is to make sure that we provide a place, at least once, every two years, from which our members can access completely their traditions, inheritance, and, with all the interpreters that we can provide for them to get that information. And also, it's a place where hearing family members to learn how to better communicate with their deaf and hard-of-hearing family members."

region 9

"Technology isn't quite there, like it is in the mainstream society. For example, right now. What I'm using to communicate with you is called, "Video Relay Services." That means, I have a webcam. And I'm looking at an interpreter, who's interpretting over the line, to the computer, to me, while I'm communicating with you. We don't always find that among the Pueblos, or the other tribal reservations, where many people live who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. They don't have the same access to technology. They really do need that."

region 10

"Eventually, we could travel, and provide more training to the tribes. So, yes, advocacy is in the scope of what we intend to provide, in the future."

region 11

"So, I really look forward to it. So far, we have about sixty-five people who have signed up for our conference. And we know that there'll be more coming between now and July nineteenth. And what we're providing, basically, is workshops of a variety of natures. For example, we have beadwork. Someone's going to demonstrate how to make beadwork and dreamcatchers. We have several people who have done outreach projects, focused on American Indians who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, who will share with us the results of those projects. We have a very dynamic speaker, from the Skokomish Nation tribal nation in Washington. And he will be presenting on, "Hearing The Spirit:" basically, how you can keep in touch with The Spirit, without actually using the ears, and the different ways we can communicate with our world."

region 12

"One of the things that I look forward to seeing more of is a workshop on American Indian Sign Language. And that opens up a whole topic of very unique interest. Because, as you may know, American Indians have used Sign Language within their own tribes for many centuries, far longer than American Sign Language was formed. And what would be interesting is to see the difference, and the similarities, between American Indian Sign Language and American Sign Language."

region 13

"It's believed that American Sign Language was formed because a man came from France, a deaf man, in the eighteen hundreds, and brought a Sign Language from the French to America and combined that Sign Language along with what was already here in America. And, eventually, it formed American Sign Language. However, what history leaves out is there is an influence from American Indian Sign Language from the Indians who did trade with deaf consumers, or deaf residents, in the eighteen hundreds."

region 14

"It's too bad history leaves that out. But we're trying to rectify that. Because, of course, American Indian Sign Language influenced American Sign Language. And one of the workshops we'll be giving will be some of the signs in American Indian Sign Language which are also used within our deaf community."

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