The Survival of Indigenous Cultures

By Sydney Inks
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professors Sonny Smart (Sociology and Social Work) and Elia Armacanqui-Tipacti (World Languages and Literatures) passionately presented “Ojibway and Runasimi (Quechua) Languages, Songs, and Dances: Survival of Indigenous Nations” at the 2014 University Evening, hoping to educate attendees about the importance of preserving indigenous cultures. 
The indigenous people of Laramarca, Peru, and the Menominee tribe may seem different, but share a significant similarity: the struggle to remain prominent in their region.
“We need more of a presence here on campus of the issues that are related with the indigenous people,” said Armacanqui-Tipacti. “In Peru, the social class order goes government, white people, rich, middle class, poverty, and indigenous people are a separate group in poverty.”
In 2010 Armacanqui-Tipacti conducted a workshop involving children from her hometown of Laramarca, requiring them to gather stories from their grandparents with hopes to document and preserve their stories. She has always valued older generations for serving as “one complete library, each.” This workshop resulted in a newly published book, which translates to Andean Stories, compiling the collected stories of Laramarca residents, which was then translated into Runasimi, Spanish and English.
Smart is dedicated to his work with both native and non-native communities, where he has exercised his social work skills and certifications, knowledge of tribal culture and partnership with UW-Stevens Point to integrate tribal communities such as the Menominee with education and community opportunities. 
“As professors here, Sonny and I have a charge to share our worries of what may happen if society doesn’t understand and see us ­— indigenous people — with respect,” said Armacanqui-Tipacti. “What will happen if the guardians of the nature and their culture disappear?”
The audience at the University Evening had the privilege to see and participate in performances featuring traditional songs and dances derived from both indigenous cultures. 
“Songs are one way to survive,” said Armacanqui-Tipacti.  “They are very powerful; they cheer you up, console you and give you strength. Our songs and festivities tell our stories and keep them alive.”

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