Sunday, January 30, 2011
Friday, August 13, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
For the Koyukon Indians of NW Alaska, the landscape is considered a source of knowledge. For the Koyukon, the great horned owl is the most skilled prophet of all the birds...yes, birds can tell the future. Its name, for the Koyukon, is nigoodzagha, which means “small ears,” or nodneeya, which means “tells you things.” Certain “phrases” the birds say mean either good, or bad omens. The worst thing the bird can tell you is that you will cry soon, which means someone close to you will die. The bird can predit storms, and let you know you will have a good hunt! It is said that a few decades ago, the great horned owl said the “black bears would cry”…soon, I forget why, I will look, the blackberries in the area, that the bears needed to eat disappeared, and the bears suffered. The interesting thing about Koyukon language, is the extent to which its sounds reflect that of its surrounding natural environment. The name of certain birds, such as the great horned owl, may mean to the Koyukon “small ears,” “tells you things,” to the non-Koyukon speaker, the same sounds would remarkably mimic the sound of the great horned owl. I only know this because some dude, Richard Nelson, studied them. The interactive nature of oral language, blurred the boundaries between what was human, and what was animal or divine.
"Many bird calls are interpreted as Koyukon words...What is striking about these words is how perfectly they mirror the call's pattern, so that someone (outside the tribe) who knows birdsongs can readily identify the species when the words are spoken in Koyukon. Not only the rhythm comes through, but also some of the tone, the "feel" that goes with it."
Language was not something on paper, as you read this; the letters in these words represent phonetic pockets, sounds that a human makes that we represent in these little figures. You are turning them into sound in your head. Your vision and auditory perception are being blurred. Can you hear what you see here? For the Koyukon people, there was no written component to language. It was an expression of nature. It’s a big difference, aye?
I was reading this sweet book Spell of the Sensuous for three hours at work today, now I can't stop thinking about it.