Contribution by Milton Davis, Joseph Band Nez Perce, Language Instructor
As the saying goes, the language and culture cannot be separated. One can carry on ceremonies, but without the language, the connection to the Creator and land isn’t complete.
Being raised by my paternal grandmother, she taught me the language and our longhouse teachings. My grandmother raised me since my mother passed away when I was 1 year old. My grandmother taught me titoqatimt, and taught me a little bit of ‘ichishkiin/ palus sinwit.
In my teenage years, my father passed away. Thus, the language played a key role in prayers. Praying in the language has healed me, it helped me carry on in life. The language completes the connection to the Creator. When one speaks the language, not only does the Creator hear you, but everything hears your words. By everything, I mean: the land, the animals, and the spirits. For instance, when you say (in the language) wapaytam ~help me. Everything hears you, and everything will help you.
The words in our songs also help. Understanding the language helps you learn a teaching in a song, it tells you how to live your life.
I could go on and on as to what the language has done for me. But mainly, it has helped me with going through the grief process of losing both parents. So, I guess I feel I try my best to help others in that way.
“Completing Connections” was first published in January 2020. With the upcoming semi-annual meeting, we thought it was a good reminder to keep thoughts of language and culture as we participate in the discussions, roundtables, and presentations.