Walking in balance: Looking back while moving forward. Rediscovering the Lumbee language and moving into the 21st century

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Clarke, James F. "Walking in balance: Looking back while moving forward. Rediscovering the Lumbee language and moving into the 21st century." Thesis (MA, Liberal studies) Winston Salem, NC: Wake Forest University, 2007. 57p.


This thesis deals with Lumbee loss of their indigenous language, ultimately "attempt[ing] to offer suggestions on how the Lumbee can revitalize their language to embrace their history and to preserve their culture as they move into the 21 st century and beyond" (p. 2).

After some introductory discussion of the functions of communication and language, particularly for Native Americans, Clarke provides interesting data on the status of indigenous languages in the US. He found one estimate (published in 1995) that, of 175 indigenous languages spoken in the US, 155 were moribund and 125 of these will lose their last native speakers by 2025. Clarke then summarizes arguments for preserving indigenous languages. Their loss represents the loss of intellectual diversity, a sense of identity (for groups as well as individuals), and culture.

Chapter 2 reviews the history and origins of one Lumbee tribe. Chapter 3 discusses the relationship between indigenous language and Native American identity, including the BIA's criteria for federal acknowledgement. It also touches on present-day Lumbee English. Chapter 4 discusses language revitalization programs and available funding. In Chapter 5, Clarke argues that the Lumbee tribe should undertake a language revitalization program using the Lakota language; the latter is in the Siouan/Catawba family and has a consortium that has created educational materials. He briefly outlines phases this program could take, including language nests in preschool and elementary school, followed by instruction in high school and local colleges, including teacher training. Pages 42-57 consist of several appendices; a bibliography, and Clarke's vita.

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