Eagle would often introduce the Native teachings with the question,
“What was the gift the white man gave to the Native people?”
The answer . . .
the English language. Although Native languages are important to the culture’s expression, English provides a common tool for communication. This teaching was the one that brought the most discussion. Often the Native people said that the Native language was important to the survival of their culture. Eagle would respond with the view that English allowed the various peoples a way to communicate with each other.
When Eagle attended a conference in Yellowknife (North West Territories, Canada) in the 1980s, he observed how difficult it was for solutions to be agreed upon. Interpretations from English to French (for those who only spoke French) created blockages to the communication/agreement/voting processes. These interpretations had to coincide with information being presented. It took time to connect with the common ground – to “be on the same page”. Eagle never said that the Native people had to give up their Native languages; he supported the view that English provided a common ground for discussion. This teaching was given to Eagle by an Elder at this conference.
I personally feel that Eagle’s view is valid. The English language provides me a tool to communicate to everyone the teachings of Eagle Child. I realize that there are concepts that are difficult to translate into English. These concepts are meaningful to the dynamics of the culture. This is true of any language that is rooted in a culture with its own identity. English provides a common ground on which to translate the respective teachings so everyone can benefit from the wisdom the teachings give. English gives everyone the tool and the knowledge to allow information and communication to flow to help eliminate the discord interpretations can create. English has become “the universal language” for a reason – to enable all peoples of the world to communicate and understand their interaction with each other.
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