Understanding Cultural Diversity Essay

1771 words - 7 pages

Valuing and understanding cultural diversity is an important step in being able to understand the customs and histories of a society. Culture itself is a key feature in a society’s identity as it enables people within the society to identify how they view themselves and other groups in which they identify with. Every culture, community, or ethnic group tends to have its own beliefs, values, and notions of how to lead one’s life. Every society relies on cultural expression in order to continue to keep its communities strong and its traditions alive. The key component of cultural expression is language. Language is essential as a social element and helps to establish emotional feelings of solidarity and group identity. Denying a people this particular fundamental aspect of cultural expression limits the unique perspectives of those people’s lives and the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next is immediately endangered. Language is what holds cultures together and binds people to each other. The loss of a language means an entire culture, its people, its identity are forever lost. The suppression of languages of minority groups in general has been used as a political policy throughout history in order to exterminate and suppress minority cultures. When languages disappear cultures die and dead cultures are soon lost to in the history of time. Two aboriginal tribes in North America, the Wôpanâak and the Cherokee have recognized this issue. With a decreasing number of their native speakers dying as a result of old age, the assimilation of their youth by modern day American culture, and the lack of middle age fluent speakers the Wôpanâak and Cherokee tribes have started to focus on the revitalization of their languages in order to save their cultures and make certain that their people’s identities are there for years to come.
After the first successfully colony was established in the Americas by European settlers the way of life of Native American tribes was immediately in danger. Over the next few hundred years’ Native American tribes were wiped out by these immigrants from Europe. Whether it be through disease, war, or false treaties Native American tribes were soon being eliminated. One of the first tribes to experience instability was the Wôpanâak of modern day eastern Massachusetts. As being one of the first tribes to encounter Europeans the Wôpanâak people received the full blunt of the force of European expansion. In fact, according to Teresa McCarty author of Language Planning and Policy in Native America, “The Wôpanâak were the first tribe to encounter and help the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620” (McCarty). Whether it be disease or conflict these early encounters with the European settlers ravaged the Wôpanâak tribe and as a result depleted much of their population. The impact of these first encounters are still felt by the tribe and according to the Wôpanâak Language Revitalization Project, “Wampanoag language ceased...

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