The October release of Martin Scorsese’s latest film Killers of the Flower Moon has thrust the sordid history of America’s treatment of its indigenous peoples back into the public eye.
On today’s episode of The Oxford Comment, the last for 2023, inspired by the themes in Killers of the Flower Moon, and in celebration of National Native American Heritage Month in the United States, we spotlight two aspects of Native American culture that transcend tribe and nation and have been the recent focus of OUP scholars: language and religious beliefs.
For our first interview, we were joined by Rosemarie Ostler, author of The United States of English: The American Language from Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century, to speak about the Native American English dialect, how English became more widely spoken amongst Native Americans, and current programs to preserve Native American languages. We then spoke with Gregory Shushan, author of Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions about near-death experiences, Native American myths, shamanism, and religious revitalization movements across indigenous cultures in North America.
Check out Episode 89 of The Oxford Comment and subscribe to The Oxford Comment podcast through your favourite podcast app to listen to the latest insights from our expert authors.
You can read the chapter “Ethnic Dialects” from Rosemarie Ostler’s book, The United States of English: The American Language from Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century, which presents the evolution of American English not as a dry collection of linguistic facts, but as an ever-changing story that’s part of the country’s larger cultural and political history.
Read the chapter exploring near-death experiences (NDEs) in “North America” from Gregory Shushan’s book, Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions, which examines the role culture plays in how people experience and interpret NDEs, and reveals how afterlife beliefs often originate in such extraordinary experiences.
You may also be interested in the chapter “Possession and dispossession: religion in Native America”, from Timothy Beal’s Religion in America: A Very Short Introduction.
If you want to learn more about Indigenous languages, keep an eye out for Lyle Campbell’s upcoming title, The Indigenous Languages of the Americas: History and Classification, and Nicholas Limerick’s Recognizing Indigenous Languages: Double Binds of State Policy and Teaching Kichwa in Ecuador.
Featured image: Arapaho Ghost Dance, 1900, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)