This post was published at Hiatus, the newsletter of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Ottawa.
In April, the Linguistics Department received the visit of Perankô, a speaker of Panará, directly from the Brazilian Amazon. He came to Ottawa as the first step of a documentation grant awarded to Bernat by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) to document the Panará language for digital archiving (http://elar.soas.ac.uk/deposit/0418), but also as a way to contribute to his understanding of the Western world, of the situation of native American societies and languages in North America, and as an enriching personal experience. All along the 20 days that he spent here, we filmed him explaining his experiences in Panará so that he can have a vivid token of his visit.
In Ottawa, Perankô met with students and participated in the department life. He also saw snow for the first time, and realized just how cold it can be in Canada. He visited museums, the University campus, Parliament Hill, and a municipal swimming pool. He tried poutine, pancakes, hamburgers, ramen, phở, and a rabbit paella.
We were invited to visit the community of Kahnawà:ke, where Perankô did a Panará-Mohawk interview with two teachers that work on curriculum development for the Kahnawà:ke community. We also visited the traditional Mohawk longhouses, where rituals take place, and the community high school, where we acted as interpreters during two hours of conversation between Perankô and a small group of teachers and students.
Perankô also accompanied us on a work retreat to a cottage in Mont Tremblant. On the way back, we visited the Omega Park, where Perankô was able to satiate his curiosity about Canadian fauna.
Finally, Perankô obtained a last-minute tourist visa for the United States so that he could attend SAIL (the Symposium on American Indian Languages) at the RIT in Rochester, NY. We presented a Documentation Project for the Panará language, which includes a dictionary of Panará, a project in which the Panará are very invested. Perankô presented the introduction of the presentation, speaking in Panará with subtitles projected on the canvas behind him. Finally, Perankô had the opportunity to meet and discuss with researchers and members of native American groups.
From now on, deep in a forest between the Brazilian states of Pará and Mato Grosso, the members of this small community will all know about Canada and Ottawa, moose and squirrels, snow and slush, the Rideau canal, and the sandwiches at Café Alt.