This word-collection workshop constitutes the initial stage of a larger-scale language revitalization effort led by the Pueblo of Acoma with the help of The Language Conservancy (http://www.languageconservancy.org/), a non-profit organization specializing in grassroots-level language preservation and education efforts. The results of the workshop will form the basis of the very first Acoma dictionary and other educational materials.
This Rapid Word Collection workshop was unique for a number of reasons:
1) Acoma does not currently have a spelling convention, and very few native speakers are able to read and write the language. Therefore, four experienced documentary linguists who did not speak the language acted as scribes alongside two native scribes during the collection process. Conventionalizing the spelling system is part of the data processing to be done between June and August 2017.
2) Because of these circumstances, glossing was done in the word-collection groups, simultaneously with the word collection. Since there was only one typist for the workshop, only about 2,200 words were entered into the RWC collection sheet.
3) To be able to check spellings and process the data after the workshop, all sessions were audio- and/or video-recorded.
The workshop was a great community effort and brought together many interested Acoma speakers. It also attracted quite a bit of media attention. There was a story on the local KOAT news (http://www.koat.com/article/pueblo-elders-fighting-to-preserve-their-native-language/9618295), a radio piece on KUNM (http://kunm.org/post/acoma-pueblo-s-emergency-push-save-its-language), and a number of articles in local and state newspapers, such as the Gallup Independent (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2017-05-17/new-mexico-pueblo-attempts-to-save-language-from-extinction).
Some speaker sentiments were:
Becky Martin said recalling words also means recalling history. "I could remember where we went to go pray, where we went to go do things, how my grandparents would describe this vast land or something like that," she said.
Martin said the process of remembering makes her feel more connected to her family members. "It’s a very neat—maybe a spiritual—experiment also, because it does bring back memories, talking about the land here." From http://kunm.org/post/acoma-pueblo-s-emergency-push-save-its-language
Joe Aragon said this attempt to save the language is different because they’re creating a written dictionary. "The world has changed so drastically when it comes to communication," he said, "but tradition still matters. It’s urgent that they start to document and teach the language now before too many elders are gone. How many words have they taken with them? How many ideas have they taken with them?" he said. "So we’re the ones that are left, so we’ve got to try and protect what we have right now before any more are gone." From http://kunm.org/post/acoma-pueblo-s-emergency-push-save-its-language
A goal of 10,000 words was set at the beginning of the workshop, which was rather ambitious, considering that only four word-collection groups were expected, given the limited number of individuals who still speak the language fluently. The community was very happy with the final result of 9,321 words, however, and felt a real sense of accomplishment, even though the goal was not reached.