Readings — From the June 2014 issue

Spelling Plea

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From a letter sent last November to the Campus Planning Board of the University of Colorado Boulder. Houusoo and Nowoo3 were nineteenth-century leaders of the Southern Arapaho in what is now Colorado.

We, the undersigned CU Boulder Native American and Indigenous Studies faculty, agree that the Kittredge West and Central dormitories should be renamed for Houusoo and Nowoo3, and we specifically ask that the dormitories be named in the Arapaho/Hinono’ei language. While the orthographies might initially seem foreign to non-Arapahos and non-Natives, choosing to spell Nowoo3 as “Niwot” would be equivalent to spelling Charles de Gaulle’s name phonetically (“Sharl duh Gahl”), which is culturally chauvinist and primitivizing. Choosing to use the English translations of the two names (“Little Raven” and “Left Hand”) would be akin to using the literal translations of faculty names: Penelope Myrtle Kelsey becomes “Weaver Waxy Tree Victorious Ship” and James Andrew Cowell becomes “He Who Supplants Warrior Cow Hill.” Houusoo and Nowoo3 were the names these chiefs were known by, and we should honor them in their own languages in their own home (i.e., Boulder).

Our peer institutions have named a dormitory, a library, and a residential program in Native languages: Stanford University’s Muwekma-tah-Ruk Native American Theme House; University of British Columbia’s Xwi7xwa Library; and UMass Amherst’s Kanonhsesne Residential Program. We, as a top-tier Native Studies faculty, want to wholeheartedly support this bold decision.

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October 2019


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