Geisel Library at UC San Diego
The Geisel Library at UC San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

UC San Diego will play host to dozens of indigenous voices during a two-day “International Symposium of Indigenous Writers and Their Critics” on campus starting Monday.

Writers, poets and filmmakers will celebrate indigenous languages, literature and culture through traditional and modern means.

Organized by Dr. Gloria Chacon and Dr. Kathryn Walkiewicz, both of the UC San Diego literature department, and Latin American Studies Librarian Sarah A. Buck Kachaluba, the conference will see more than 20 Indigenous communities represented, including Hopi, Luiseno, Maya and Nahua.

“We want to dispel the popular and conventional assumption that Spanish and British colonial powers succeeded in eradicating Indigenous languages through colonialism,” Chacon said. “Of course, Indigenous people use colonial languages to create literature, but creating in Indigenous languages is also a political and aesthetic act.”

The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and decided to similarly designate the decade beginning in 2022. According to U.N. studies, two Indigenous languages go extinct every month.

“The goals of this declaration are twofold: to raise awareness about the endangerment that they face as well as underline their contribution to the world*s diversity,” Chacon said. “Presenting and studying the works of indigenous poets exposes our community to the philosophy, the aesthetics and the politics of Indigenous communities within the U.S. as well as south of the border. It is also about asserting their resilience.”

Highlights of the symposium include “Ulkantun,” songs in Mapudungun by graduate student Manuel Carrion-Lira and Caliban Catrileo, a Mapuche poet; film screening and discussion of “Waaki” with Hopi filmmaker Victor Masayesva Jr.; and an evening poetry reading at The Loft at UCSD featuring 11 indigenous writers.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.