Amazonian Chief to speak at the University of Manchester

04/21/05

The University of Manchester's Centre for Latin American Cultural Studies and the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures will host a rare opportunity for the public to meet and talk with three members of Brazil's Suya community on 10 May.

The Suya have sent representatives outside of Brazil only once before in their long history as a people, and this will be the first time Brazilian Indians have travelled outside of their country for more than 100 years.

The Suya community live in the Xingu National park in Brazil, and three Suya, including their Chief, will be visiting the UK and Germany in order to speak about the endangerment of their language and culture, and to suggest ways in which interested people can help them preserve their way of life.

Dan Everett, Professor of Phonetics and Phonology at The University of Manchester is currently funded by both the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Board) AHRB to study endangered languages, and funding from both grants is allowing the visit from the Suya community.

Professor Everett commented: "The Suya people, their language and culture, have survived for centuries but their very way of life is threatened by outside influences, for example, encroachment on their territory by large-scale farming and growing contact with the economic pull of Western civilisation.

"The Chief of the village, Kuissi, is so concerned with the endangerment of the Suya culture and languages that he now feels it necessary to begin developing long-term friendships and relationships with international partners."

It's hoped that the visit will establish charitable donations which will help the Suya to set up local initiatives aimed at sustaining their way of life. These will include purchasing a vehicle so the Suya can patrol their reservation, and, working through government-approved organisations in Brazil, establishing a sustainable industry, such as honey production and fish farming. These efforts will allow the Suya to begin defending their territory and culture from outside influences.

Professor Everett's key research goals are to establish a grammar written of the Suya language, and to write a dictionary. These will pave the way for the development of educational resources for the Suya to enable them to record and preserve their own language.

With only 200 Suya in the world the event offers a unique experience for both the Suya community and the public.

Kuissi and members of his community will be available for interview in Manchester on 9 May. There will also be a photo opportunity of the Suya arriving at Manchester Airport on 7 May at approximately 5.25pm.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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