Cooperation projects

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School knowledge from the Wichi language and culture (2013-2018)

Linguistic adviser involved: Virginia Unamuno, CONICET

The Wichi are one of the indigenous peoples currently inhabiting the Argentine lands of the Chaco region. Approximately 50,000 Wichi people live in the Argentine provinces of Chaco, Formosa and Salta as well as southern Bolivia. The total population is approximately 50,000. The rates of academic failure, school dropout and repetition are high. Illiteracy is also common.

While there are materials designed for the teaching of the Wichi language and writing, there are no materials to teach other curricular content in this language or from the point of view of the Wichi culture.

The aim of the project is to create Wichi language teaching material for students, especially those belonging to communities in the area of El Sauzalito (Chaco). This involves the creation of school terminology in this language, contributing to its revitalization and updating for use in various school settings.

Two bilingual intercultural teachers are in charge of creating the material. They work in a state school in the Ohjolo community, on the banks of the Teuco river (the province of Chaco). They follow the common spelling of the area, which is jointly agreed with other Wichi communities in periodical meetings of indigenous experts. Both teachers have been educated in CIFMA (Center of Investigation and Formation for the Aboriginal modality) and they are also Wichi. They were trained for bilingual intercultural education and they conducted research on local knowledge and the school curriculum from their own experience as teachers and as trainers of indigenous teachers.

Phase One (2013-2014)

In cooperation with INCLUIR (Instituto para la Inclusión Social y el Desarrollo Humano Asociación Civil) – Institute for Social Inclusion and Human Development.

As a result of their activity, the following material for children has been published:

a) Teaching material on linguistic and cultural knowledge for bilingual schools:

— Wichi alphabet posters

— 4 human body posters

b) Teaching material on language, literature and the environment for lower primary school students: Fwala T’eñlol Lahetenek´.

c) Teaching material on language, natural science and social science for nursery school and lower primary school students: ‘N’ku Ifweln’Uhu´.

The preparation of this material is based on the experience of two nursery school teachers regarding the recovery of practices related to the textile handcraft in Wichi communities, especially the use of ‘chaguar’. This experience enables cross-disciplinary work to be done in various fields of knowledge such as Natural Science, Arts, Language, Technology and Narrative.

Second phase (2014-2017)

In cooperation with INCLUIR (Instituto para la Inclusión Social y el Desarrollo Humano Asociación Civil) – Institute for Social Inclusion and Human Development.

As a result of this phase, the following material has been published:

a) Recorded narratives by the indigenous storyteller Alberto Lorenzo have been issued in mp3 format.

b) A storybook containing the narrative Tohnajh tenek by the previous native speaker has been publised.

c) The book Tochemet with ten illustrated Wichi songs and a CD with the same songs performed by a Wichi Musical Group “Las voces de sip’ohi”, made up by some teachers of the CIFMA and associated musicians.

This material form part of the Project “Talleres de producción colectiva de la EiB” of the CIFMA and the CONICET, coordinated by Camilo Ballena and Virginia Unamuno.

Third Phase (2017-2018)

In cooperation with Centro de Estudios del Lenguaje en Sociedad (CELES), belonged to the Universidad Nacional de San Martín – Argentina.

a) Preparation of a didactic book about the work with clay and the pieces of pottery.

b) Preparation of a book about the medicinal uses and culinary properties of autochthonous plants.

The edition of the material in each of the phases has been carried out by the publisher Wichi Lohmet, formed by teachers wichis.

Joan A. Argenter & Virginia Unamuno, “An ethnoeducational project among Wichi communities in Argentina: Acquiring language-and-culture knowledge from traditional practices”. Ari Sherris & Susan Penfield (ed.), Rejecting the Marginalized Status of Minority Languages: Educational Projects Pushing Back Against Language Endangerment. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2020, 106-120.


Revitalisation of the Baure Language and Culture (2014)

In cooperation with the Institute of Linguistics at the University of Leipzig.

Baure belongs to the Arawakan languages, a family of indigenous languages of South America and the Caribbean. Baure is a seriously endangered language spoken by a tribe living along the Baures river, a tributary of the Guarope, in the north-east of Bolivia.

The aim of the project is to strengthen the language and contribute to its use in a school setting and in ordinary life once again.

The book ‘Shi vikoyepin to chinepi’ / ‘Let’s tell stories in Baure’ was published. It is handed out as teaching material to schools and members of the community.


Revitalisation of the Indigenous languages of Oaxaca (2014-2015)

In cooperation with CELIAC (Centro Editorial de Literatura Indígena), Editorial Center for Indigenous Literature, Civic Association, Oaxaca.

Mixteco is an indigenous language spread among the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero and Tlaxcala, with almost half a million inhabitants. Owing to conditions of extreme poverty, Mixteco people have been forced to migrate to major urban areas in Mexico and to some agricultural areas in Baja California and the United States. The language has been divided into several variants due to the fragmentation of the territory.

The aim of the project is the revitalization of the indigenous languages in Oaxaca by educating indigenous authors and publishing their work.

The production, design and publication of books written by Mexican indigenous people in their native languages are current tasks. The publications will be bilingual editions with translations into Spanish for distribution to schools and among the Mixteco community in Jicayan.

The book KU´VA CHACHI ÑIVI ÑUU CHIKUA´A, IYO YATI NDUTA ÑU´UN, ÑUU NDUVA / Jicayan people’s diet on the Oaxaca coast, by the author Josefa Leonarda González Ventura, was published.


Own Indigenous Educational System for the Amorúa-Piaroa and Sikuani peoples in Colombia (2010)

With the collaboration of Etnollano Foundation, Bogotá (Colombia).

A project on ethno-education has been jointly conceived and written for the Amorua, Piaroa and Sikuani peoples, who live on the banks of the Orinoco river on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border, an area known as the Orinoquia in Colombia. It is aimed at creating and implementing bilingual and intercultural education models to meet the need to change the school and train teachers and leaders. It intends to give a new direction to pedagogical practices by encouraging participation by traditional authorities, strengthening mother tongues as languages used in school and collecting and publishing oral tradition as the basis for the curriculum, as well as promoting school organization in the area.

Education must favour the strengthening of the autonomy and management of the territories according to their cultural tradition in order to guarantee socioeconomic development. It must also protect culture transfer between generations in order to coordinate traditional knowledge with formal education.

This project contributes to the construction of the Own Indigenous Education System (Sistema de Educación Indígena Propio, SEIP), guided by the National Commission for Work and Partnership in Education for the Indigenous Peoples (Comisión Nacional de Trabajo y Concertación de la Educación para los Pueblos Indígenas, CONTCEPI), whose objective is to guarantee the fundamental right to their own education system in order to accomplish their cultural survival and strengthen and consolidate their cultural identity.

The oral tradition of the Sikuani people (2010)

The objective was to re-edit a selection of traditional stories of the Sikuani people, who live on the banks of the Orinoco river (Orinoquia in Colombia), collected by Francesc Queixalós in a bilingual edition (Spanish and Sikuani).

The publication Entre cantos y llantos : tradició is a bilingual edition of selected texts collected in a single volume to be disseminated among the Sikuani community. Introduction by Joan A. Argenter and Francesc Queixalós.

Lia Mediki. Research project on oral and ‘aural’ traditions in East Timor (2010)

In cooperation with Association Ertz Arte Gunea (Donostia-San Sebastian).

Nowadays there are approximately thirty-four native languages in East Timor coexisting with the official languages of the region, Portuguese and Tetum. Most of the adult population also knows and practices Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), which is the language imposed during the Indonesia occupation (1975-1999). Portuguese, despite being the language used by the administration, was forbidden during the occupation period and, as a consequence, it is little known amongst the young population.

Linguistic diversity in Timor affects the whole area: it is not uncommon to find border villages whose population uses different languages to communicate. For instance, in the district of Baucau, in the centre of the state, five different languages are spoken: Makasa’e, Uaimo’a, Naueti, Mediki/Kairui and Galolen.

The aim of the project was to identify and provide evidence for the various oral manifestations in the Midiki language, as well as to delve into the relationship between orality and ‘aurality’ in the cultural practices of the Midiki speaking-communities.

An inventory of the oral traditions was carried out by means of interviews and digital audio-visual and sound recordings of various local agents to understand the role of these traditions in today’s society and in the past. Some of the collected data that compile these oral traditions were transcribed and the voices of their main exponents were recorded.

These materials are intended to contribute to the survival and revitalization of a language spoken by a low demography ethnic group. The aim was to raise awareness among the community and across the country about the value of their intangible heritage.

The CD ‘Rona Maubere. Músicas y otros sonidos de Timor Oriental, Musika ho lian-lian sira hosi Timor Lorosae, Music and other sounds from East Timor’ was also published (2010).

Revitalization of the Sia Pedee language, Ecuador (2008-2009) 

The Epera people in Ecuador, whose settlement is recent, consists of around 310 people divided up into the communities of Santa Rosa, Cayapa and Bella Aurora. It is located in the coastal province of Esmeraldas, which is the southernmost part of Eperara saija (embera), one of the most populated indigenous areas in Colombia. Their language, Sia Pedee (Wamuna or Pepena) is seriously endangered.

The aim of the project was the collection, recording, transcription, translation, edition and publication of thirty-five narratives by native speakers using conventional means and audio. The narratives belong to different genres (myths, legends, stories, singings).

The book Net’aa chonaara weda nepiripata p’edaa : tradición oral del pueblo épera (The Oral Tradition of the Epera people) was published. It is handed out as teaching material to schools and members of the community.

Recuperation of the resource documents of the Majorcan people transferred to Cuba (2005-2007)

In cooperation with the Department of Catalan Philology of the University of the Balearic Islands.

The aim of the project was to recover and digitalize resource documents of interest to Balearic Islands heritage and knowledge about the contribution of the Mallorcan community in Cuba.

The publication El Diari ‘La Vida’ (Havana 1900-1913) [The Newspaper «Life», Havana 1900-1913], by Joan Miralles Montserrat and Honorat Jaume Font was published jointly by Fundació Balears Exterior (Fundació Càtedra Iberoamericana-UIB), Departament de Cultura i Patrimoni del Consell Insular de Mallorca, Institut d’Estudis Baleàrics and Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat.

Revitalization of the Sateré-Mawé language and culture (2004.2006)

Coordinated by Dr Dulce do Carmo Franceschini, Federal University of Uberlândia / MG and supported by the Federal University of Amazonas.

Sateré-mawé is a Tupi language spoken by around nine thousand inhabitants in the indigenous area of Andirá-Marau and the city of Manaus in Amazonia.

The aim of the project included strengthening the indigenous language and cultures in schools and producing teaching material.

Within this context, the UNESCO Chair was involved in publishing the folk story tuerût aheko, produced by OPISMA (Organization of Sateré-mawé teachers from Andira and Waikurapa) and WOPUME (Organization of Sateré-mawé Teachers from Marau, Manjurú and Urupadi).

Revitalization of the Tikuna language and culture in Manaus (2002-2006)

Coordinated by Dr Dulce do Carmo Franceschini, Federal University of Amazonas.

Tikuna language is classified as a language isolate, since it has no linguistic link with any other indigenous language. It is spoken in Alto Solimões, on the border of Brasil, Peru and Colombia, and also in Manaus. The Tikuna are the largest indigenous group in Brasil, with around thirty-six thousand people.

The project stemmed from the awareness that the youngest members of the community living in Manaus do not speak this language any longer and the process of language loss progresses fairly quickly, since this was the first generation of speakers to be born in the city.

With the aim of reversing the process, different actions were put in place in order to strengthen and revalue the indigenous language, especially in the school setting.

Within this context, the UNESCO Chair took part in publishing the folk story Ugütaerü’ῧ y tikunaarü. Cagü’ü arü natchiga. Oregü arü u’gü.

Guide for learning the Enenlhet Language (2003) 

This project is supported by the Norwegian Development Cooperation Agency* (NORAD).

The work Enenlhet Apaivona : Nentegiai’a negiangveiakmoho neliatekamaha enenlhet apaivoma : guide for the learning of Toba mother tongue was published, as part of the Paraguayan Library of Anthropology collection.