November 1-30 marks Native American Heritage Month (American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, November). Fletcher Seminary is based in San Antonio, Texas and We acknowledge that while our seminary serves people around the globe, we are based on ancient tribal lands in south Texas.
We acknowledge the San Antonio River as Yanaguana, (Spirit Waters in Pajalate) as the source of life for this city and commit to protecting her, all her tributaries and connected waters and this land called Texas as Somi Sek to the Esto’k Gna people who are called Carrizo-Comecrudo by the Spanish, today and for future generations.
We acknowledge this place known as San Antonio as the traditional homeland of many Native American peoples who are called Coahuiltecan by Spanish records. 200 tribes/bands/clans were documented in historical records and include the Payaya, Auteca Paguame, Jarame, Pompopa, and Borrado, as well as other aboriginal peoples such as the Carrizo-Comecrudo who continue to carry their traditional lifeways.
We acknowledge these Indigenous various communities as the traditional people of this land now called San Antonio, Texas.
We acknowledge this homeland that would later include Comanches and Lipan Apaches in the 1700’s, as a place that is now home to nearly 30,000 Urban Indians spanning from tribes across the North, Central, and South America who continue to sustain their traditional languages and customs.
A Moment for Mission
“Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!” —Psalm 34:8, CEB
In addition to being based in the region now known as San Antonio, Texas, Fletcher Seminary has partnerships in Oklahoma. The Maskoke Seminole language is among the 7,000-plus indigenous languages globally that are on the brink of extinction. From across Oklahoma to east of the Mississippi, only about 350 fluent Maskoke speakers remain. Marcus Briggs-Cloud is racing against time to revive the language he considers key to his tribe’s culture, history and identity.
“I [used] to think that a viable solution to language loss was that you get in a classroom and you teach the language,” said Briggs-Cloud, a former language instructor for the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. “I realized nobody has ever learned a language sitting in a classroom.”
For the past 16 years, Briggs-Cloud has worked toward creating an ecovillage, located in a parcel of the tribe’s ancestral homelands in what is now Weogufka, Alabama.
“I wanted to make an ecovillage community where we can be good to the earth, keep our language and culture alive, and be able to live as a full-time Indian so that we don’t have to schedule a ceremony at the mercy of the American labor force schedule,” he said.
November—Native American Heritage Month—is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Briggs-Cloud is playing an important role. He hopes that in 25 years, Ekvn-Yefolecv Maskoke ecovillage will be a place where one can still hear the Maskoke language spoken fluently.
—Adapted from “Preserving Culture Identity and History through Indigenous Languages” by Ginny Underwood, May 6, 2020. Used by permission.