Chasing Voices: John Peabody Harrington & the Language Revitalization Movement

Chasing Voices: John Peabody Harrington & the Language Revitalization Movement

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More information about this film will be posted as it gets closer to broadcast.

When linguistic and anthropologist John Peabody Harrington died in 1961 at the age of 77, few understood the significance of his work. Harrington was an eccentric, paranoid, and obsessively driven anthropologist whose life became dedicated to preserving Native America's dying languages. Reclusive and secretive, he worked tirelessly 18-hour days crisscrossing the American West recording the last speakers of America's indigenous languages.

Often regarded by some as a genius and by others as a recluse, it is estimated that John Peabody Harrington had complied an astounding one million pages of handwritten notes in his 50 years of fieldwork. Written in Latin and in code, he hid much of it from his colleagues.

Today Harrington's legacy is now regarded as the "Rosetta Stone" that unlocks dozens of all-but-forgotten California Indian languages. Many tribal languages that once lay dormant are now being revived, bringing hope to Native people who for many years had none. What treasures from the past do those pages hold as I go and search the notes for the voices of my ancestors long ago?

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