LANGUAGE POLICY STATEMENT OF THE GARIFUNA NATION
DRAFT (for CABO meeting Dec. 1997)
We, the Garifuna people, although living within the borders of various countries (including but not limited to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent, and the United States), represent a single, united ethnic community known as the Garifuna Nation. Our language is the Garifuna language. This language has a dictionary, a working orthography, and a corpus of literature and descriptive grammatical work.
The Garifuna people recognize the natural and inherent interconnectedness of language and culture and that our language is the primary vehicle for the transmission of our culture. We believe that our survival depends on both the preservation of our traditional language and on social and economic development. Therefore, language policies and goals described here also impact and are intimately connected with our economic development and cultural survival.
As an indigenous people, the Garifuna Nation has basic rights to autonomy and self-determination, and the right to maintain and preserve Garifuna language and culture. Further, the Garifuna Nation recognizes the right of the Garifuna communities and member organizations in each country to establish and implement local level language policies and development initiatives, and expects these rights to be guaranteed by local governments, as described by the United Nations Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We, the Garifuna Nation, declare that our ancestral language is Garifuna, and that Garifuna is the language of the Garifuna Nation, regardless of the level of individual competence.
In order to ensure the survival of the Garifuna language, the Garifuna Nation adopts the following language maintenance policies. In the process, we expect recognition of the Garifuna language by the governments of Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
These policies are reflected in the thrust of the Garifuna National Language Program, and will result in the formation and execution of language preservation projects and initiatives at all levels within the Garifuna Nation. The Garifuna Nation encourages its various communities to develop local level language maintenance strategies which are tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of the given community.
The Garifuna Nation also mandates the training of teachers and other interested and appropriate individuals in the use of the new Garifuna orthography (reading and writing), in order to promote and promulgate the production of literature, plays, videos, and other cultural materials in Garifuna. Access to publication will also be secured for all regions. We believe that the acquisition of literacy in the ancestral language will expand the domains of use of the Garifuna language, and will allow contemporary Garinagu the maximum potential for creative expression in their language.
Language acquisition and use
For Garifuna parents whose competence in the language is imperfect, local programs to help parents improve their mastery of Garifuna should be implemented.
The Garifuna Nation recognizes the need for greater opportunities to practice and use the ancestral language, and calls for the establishment of fora at all levels promoting use of the language. In addition, we realize that elder speakers are a valuable linguistic resource, and we encourage the consultation of elder speakers and their involvement with language learners. In turn, elder speakers should be encouraging and supportive of language learners.
In general, Garifuna people welcome the interest of linguists in our unique language. We expect, however, a high degree of cultural sensitivity and responsibility. In addition, we require copies of any work produced which deals with our language, and especially appreciate materials and other work which may also be utilized in our language preservation and revitalization efforts.
Through this statement, the Garifuna Nation makes known our intention to exercise greater control over the schools in our communities and over the education of our children, rights guaranteed to us in the United Nations Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as other national and regional agreements and legislation.
The Garifuna Nation requires of national and local governments not only recognition of the legal right to maintain our language, but implementation of the effective right to maintain our language through the allocation of resources, personnel, funds and equipment.
Schools in all Garifuna communities will institute a curriculum teaching the history and culture of the Garifuna people, including the story of the origin of the Garinagu and the Garifuna language, aspects of Garifuna cosmology, traditional Garifuna foods, and Garifuna songs and dance.
The Garifuna Nation also expects to act on our right to educate our children in our traditional Garifuna language, through programs designed to meet the educational, linguistic, and cultural preservation needs and goals of each individual Garifuna community within the Garifuna Nation. As an indigenous people, the Garifuna Nation reserves the right for our children to be educated in their ancestral language as a first or second language.
In keeping with the historical Garifuna tradition of academic excellence, the Garifuna Nation expects for our children an education which is culturally sensitive and linguistically responsible, and also prepares our children for the wider social context. We assert that our children are fully capable of developing a high level of mastery in both their ancestral language and the national language, and expect the use of Garifuna as a medium of instruction to increase student success and performance, increase student awareness and knowledge of their culture and history, and enhance educational opportunity; in addition, we believe that the inclusion of our language and culture in the school program in our communities will reaffirm traditional Garifuna values and pride in each of the nation states of which we are a part.
In addition to the use of our ancestral language in the formal education of our children, the Garifuna Nation also calls for the initiation of Garifuna language instruction at all levels for any and all interested persons. These are to include courses of instruction for non-speakers of the language, as well as courses for Garifuna speakers who wish to acquire literacy in the language.
To facilitate and encourage the development and implementation of programs and projects with a view to ensuring the preservation, promotion, development and wider utilization of the Garifuna language.
1) To facilitate the development of the Garifuna language.
1. Language Development
2. A Standardized Orthography
3. The Acquisition of Garifuna Language Skills
4. The Publication of Literature in Garifuna
5. Fora Promoting the Use of Garifuna
6.Secure Financial Resources