Foundation for Endangered Languages

Home | Manifesto | Membership details | Proceedings | Grant Applications | Newsletter | Links | Bibliography

 

10. Obituaries

Mary Haas
by Karl Teeter

A memorial session was held at the University of California, Berkeley, for Mary Rosamond Haas, born January 23, 1910, who died May 17, 1996. The session was held Friday Afternoon June 28 in conjunction with the Hokan/Penutian/J.P. Harrington conference. I was one of Mary's early students, from 1954-59, so was invited to speak at the session along with several other Haas students, and my other principal teacher, Murray B. Emeneau. I wouldn't have missed it; goodness knows what my career would have been had Mary not set me on the right track after I came to her from military service as a college dropout. Fifteen minutes were allotted to each speaker, and we began at two p.m. with Mr. Emeneau, whose topic was listed as "Mary Haas's Contribution to the University. Mr. Emeneau was a co-founder of the Linguistics Department in 1952 along with Mary, so has been familiar with her entire academic career, during which she was responsible for training more scholars as Americanists than Boas and Sapir together. Mr. Emeneau is 92, but as he read fluently from a handwritten script nobody would have known this. Next was Margaret Langdon from UCSD on "MH as a teacher", Bill Shipley of UCSC on "MH as a Historical Linguist", and, rounding out the first hour, Victor Golla of Humboldt State University on "Mary Haas's contribution to American Indian Linguistics." At three p.m. we had Pam Munro of UCLA on "Mary Haas's contribution to Southeastern Indian Studies," a presentation read by Leanne Hinton of Berkeley, ad width=300 valign=top>  

I spoke at 3:30, and was billed as giving, "Final Remarks." Two aspects of my presentation may be noted. First, I had the great boon of collaboration with Mary's oldest pal in linguistics, Frank T. Siebert, Jr., now of Old Town, Maine. Frank was born in 1912 and has been doing field work on Penobscot since 1932; he also worked with Mary in Maine and in Oklahoma. Frank remembered a great deal of relevant background to Mary's career, some of which I presented, and is it was he who pointed out to me her pre-eminence in number of Americanists trained, which I made my main point. I studied lists of her Ph.D.s and of those she sent out to do field work subsidized through the Survey of California Languages -- well over a hundred -- and pointed out that, even given the numerous important written work she left behind, including a grammar. dictionary, and texts of the Tunica language of Mississippi, WHO she left behind should be considered along with WHAT. She appointed herself as essentially the mother of the many and diverse California languages, most of which were dying, and worked to make certain that no language still spoken died without documentation, a uniquely important contribution to our field.

 

 

Quinault Language: Death of Oliver Mason

Dave Wells, Cultural Envoy to the A'aliis of the Quinault, Olympia, Wash., USA bootbnd(at)olywa. net wrote Endangered_Languages_L on 7 May 1996:

Esteemed Colleagues:
Often the discussion on this list has been over the necessity of preserving and encouraging endangered languages and, hence, the cultures that are so dependent on them. The loss of intellectual and collected wisdom often hangs on a fragile bodies of the few. These losses say much about the intrusion of dominant cultures and outside influences.

On Saturday, 27 April 1996, Oliver Mason, A'aliis (king/hereditary leader) of the Quinault died. His death occurred in the morning shortly after rising and greeting his wife. Oliver Mason was the grandson of Taholah who signed the treaty preserving much of the Quinault lands. As a leader, he was charged with understanding the duties and work of everyone, the lineages, traditional fishing sites, stories and songs; and ultimately both the Quinault language and culture.

As the last speaker with an extensive knowledge of the language and culture, Oliver Mason's death is much greater than just a personal loss, loss to family and friends, but also the loss forever of much knowledge. While there are several elders who know pieces of the language and culture, Oliver Mason's death greatly eroded the possibility of moving the language forward, and of encouraging some parts of culture, but fortunately the remaining elders have even greater responsibility and need to record what parts they hold. It is important not to lose everything; something is much better than nothing.

While many of the names of people who are reading here (and their work in similar recording, and cultural preservation/encouragement projects), may not end up on rosters of heroes, you are nonetheless heroic in your vision and determination. Do not let an opportunity become a lost opportunity.

Contents.