Tongva on Stage in Toronto, Tackling Forced Sterilization

Gabrielino-Fernandeño or Tongva (xgf) is a sleeping tongue. Spoken by the Tongva or San Gabriel Band near Los Angeles, the language survived until the 1970s when the last native or partial speaker passed away.

“Tombs of the Vanishing Indian,” which includes spoken Tongva, is playing on stage at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Written by Marie Clements and directed by Yvonne Nolan, the play will run from tomorrow through March 27. Speaking Tongva is actor Michelle St. John, whose heritage language is an Eastern Algonquian (family) language.

A topic of the play is the forced sterilization of Native women as a policy of the US government.

Was there such a policy? Cecil Adams essentially says no—at least not on a large scale—on the Straight Dope. Jane Lawrence discusses forced sterilization in the American Indian Quarterly and Josie Tamez provides an overview in the Atlantic Free Press of eugenics and sterilization in the US with respect to Native Americans and concludes at least 3400 women were sterilized, a figure that would be proportionate to 452,000 non-Native women.

An exciting footnote: Keepers of Indigenous Ways is working to awaken Tongva again. To learn some Tongva, order their phrase book, “Now You’re Speaking Our Language,” available for USD 5.30.

This blog entry was inspired by the article Rescuing Lost Voices by Naomi Skwarna.

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One Response to “Tongva on Stage in Toronto, Tackling Forced Sterilization”

  1. chasm Says:

    I hadn’t heard much about sterilization of indigenous tribes, but I have no trouble believing it. There was significant use of involuntary sterilization, particularly in the south, in the early part of the last century and extending past the mid-century mark, IIRC. Black, persons with disabilities, and poor whites in Appalachia were the most common victims. Hitler based his eugenics policies at least in part on U.S. policies.

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