Taking away issues of political sovereignty, economic development, and all other issues that seem to dominate the outsiders notion of challenges facing Native communities; the loss of Native languages is a spreading cancer plaguing nearly all Tribes.
Most tribes can find the health of their Native language in their community as being: at risk, on the verge of extinction, or completely gone. Only a handful of tribes have completely healthy languages that are still being learned by children as their first language. Unfortunately however, for most tribes the norm is found in the following: parents and older can speak fluently, only elders can speak fluently, or only a few members can speak or even remember the language.
The state of crisis that many communities find themselves in is reflective of a long history of the attempted assimilation and destruction of Native people and their cultures by colonial forces. As our elders and parents grow older, those people who hold the knowledge that is essential to our communities are slowly dwindling in numbers. What happens if our language is lost? When the life sustaining thread that informs us of who we are as our respective People is no longer there? Language holds the knowledge that binds us to generations past. Knowledge that has sustained our communities since time immemorial. Language is the thread that ties Native communities to their history, their identity, their culture, their actions, their world, them. If that is gone, what is left? An empty shell of a community where we go through the actions without knowing why we do what we do or say what we say? I could get lost in the swirl of questions raised by such a tragic event. Unfortunately, for many communities that nightmare is a reality, or a very near one at the least.
Fortunately, many Native communities are waking up from this nightmare; taking the on the challenge of saving their languages. My brother Jonathan Sims is creating a documentary about this struggle. His film entitled A Race Against Time documents the efforts of New Mexico's tribes in revitalizing their languages. Taking on this challenge will be the responsibility of this generation of Indigenous people. It is a fight that I hope we can win. A fight we have to win.
Check out the trailer here and my brother's other work: A Race Against Time by Jonathan Sims- No Reservations Productions
I was surfing around youtube and noticed highlights and commentary about the De La Hoya fight. I haven't really followed boxing since I was younger (even then I don't think I really followed boxing). But, I was reminded of a time when New Mexico and myself were captivated by a young man who had the chin of Marciano, the speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard, and the heart of a lion. Raised on the streets of Albuquerque, Johnny Tapia never forgot where he came from and took on the persona of fighting for his city. This came to a head when he fought cross town rival Danny Romero, the "pretty boy" who's life was in contrast to the rough background Tapia grew up in. After defeating Romero and essentially ending his career, Tapia gained the respect of thousands and earned the title of New Mexico's Champion.
I met Tapia when I was younger, and he was one of the coolest people you'd ever meet. I was with a group of friends and ran into him at the movie theater. Never forgetting his fans, he was more than happy to chat with us for a bit. Those kind of people are always special; members of a community who rise to prominence and can still appreciate those who are their fans. One of my favorite memories of Tapia was after defeating Romero, the Showtime hosts were all over him trying to get a post fight interview. Upon seeing his grandpa enter the ring he pushes past the interviewers to give his grandpa a hug exclaiming "grandpa!". Haha. Now that's someone who never let the lights get to his head.
In recent years, Tapia has gotten older and battled his own personal demons. Irregardless, he will always remain one the greatest fighters Albuquerque has ever produced. One of the most entertaining, exciting, and explosive fighters of his time; Johnny Tapia will always remain New Mexico's champion.
I was happy to find this video re-posted on youtube. Enjoy.