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Lessons from Fort Apache: Beyond Language Endangerment and Maintenance

ISBN: 978-1-118-42423-0
280 pages
May 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
Lessons from Fort Apache: Beyond Language Endangerment and Maintenance (1118424239) cover image


This incisive ethnographic analysis of indigenous language documentation, maintenance, and revitalization focuses on linguistic heritage issues on the Native American reservation at Fort Apache and explores the broader social, political and religious influences on changing language practices in indigenous communities.

  • Offers a focused ethnographic analysis of an indigenous community that also explores global issues of language endangerment and maintenance and their socio-historical contexts
  • Addresses the complexities and conflicts in language documentation and revitalization programs, and how they articulate with localized discourse genres, education practices, religious beliefs, and politics
  • Examines differing evaluations of language loss, and maintenance, among members of affected communities, and their creative responses to challenges posed by encompassing socio-cultural regimes, including university accredited language experts
  • Provides an ethnographic analysis of speech in indigenous communities that moves beyond narrowly conceived language documentation to consider changing linguistic and social identities
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii

1. Introduction 1

2. Indigenous Languages and the Mediation of Communities 12

3. Learning to Listen: Coming to Terms with Conflicting Meanings of Language Loss 47

4. They Live in Lonesome Dove: English in Indigenous Places 79

5. Stories in the Moment of Encounter: Documentation Boundary Work 113

6. What No Coyote Story Means: The Borderland Genre of Traditional Storytelling 152

7. “Some ‘No No’ and Some ‘Yes’”: Silence, Agency, and Traditionalist Words 186

8. Sustainability: Possible Socialities of Documentation and Maintenance 215

Appendix A: Lawrence Mithlo 229

Appendix B: Eva Lupe on Her Early Life 237

Index 250

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Author Information

M. Eleanor Nevins is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA. A specialist in linguistic and cultural anthropology, her work addresses the interplay of language, education, religion, globalization, and indigenous communities. An accomplished scholar of Western Apache poetics and rhetoric, Nevins teaches courses in linguistic and cultural anthropology, ethnography, and Native American literatures. Her work has appeared in a number of edited volumes as well as in the journals Language in Society, Language and Communication, Heritage Management, and Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.

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“Lessons From Fort Apache: Beyond Language Endangerment and Maintenance is an important contribution to the literature on language documentation and maintenance, as well as indigenous language revitalization."  (American Indian Culture & Research Journal, 19 November 2014)

“Fort Apache offers a useful nuance to understanding the dynamics of heritage, its meanings, and the mediation between people and their culture. While the Apache language and discursive inventions are the primary focus of Nevins’s work, built heritage specialists will find this book useful in helping to understand the relationship between the expert and the community and how this dynamic both impairs and facilitates our understanding of intangible heritage and its sustainable conservation.”  (Preservation, Education & Research, 2013)

“This realistic, thoughtful study should be regarded as obligatory reading for any linguist genuinely concerned with endangered language maintenance and revitalization.  Summing Up:  Essential.  All levels/libraries.”  (Choice, 1 December2013)

“In Lessons from Fort Apache, Eleanor Nevins provides an eye-opening map of the ideologically complex, often densely tangled contact zone that language maintenance projects inevitably inhabit and charts in eloquent, persuasive terms a politically symmetrical path toward language sustainability.”
Richard Bauman, Indiana University, Bloomington

“In Lessons from Fort Apache, Nevins provides vividly instructive portrayals of the ideological struggles of language revitalization efforts.  She teaches us to attain new understandings of the hidden complexity of these important intra- and intercultural projects.”
Paul V. Kroskrity, University of California, Los Angeles

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