Samuel Catanach at the WAYK House in Atka, Alaska.

Bahpibo! (Hello!) My name is Samuel and I am from P’osuwaegeh Owingeh (meaning ‘Water Drinking Place Village’), more commonly known as the Pueblo of Pojoaque, a Tewa speaking American Indian community located in northern New Mexico (the keyword being “new”). Furthermore, I am a graduate student in the master’s in American Indian Studies (AIS) program at Arizona State University, studying the various ways we as Native people can carry out the process of decolonization within our communities, in particular, through the revitalization of our heritage languages and cultures. This, and my desire to learn and teach my own heritage language, lead me to apply for an internship with Where Are Your Keys (WAYK).

As a Native person and AIS student, I am constantly thinking of ways to take what I am learning in my program and elsewhere and how to apply it to grassroots, on the ground efforts of decolonization within my own community in order to make meaningful contributions to it. This is where I feel an opportunity like interning for WAYK is invaluable as it is allowing me to learn about and contribute to very similar efforts taking place within another indigenous community, but while viewing the process through an unbiased lens, resulting in a learning experience that will be more productive and therefore more useful overall.

Prior to graduate school, I worked for my community, doing work related to language revitalization as well as teaching and learning about our history and culture. This lasted for nearly four years before I decided that in order to further contribute, I needed to increase my knowledge and skill sets, hence my time as an intern for several organizations and entities such as the National Museum of the American Indian (how I heard about WAYK and the internship opportunity in the first place), as a graduate student at Arizona State University, and now as an intern for WAYK.

My hopes for the summer are many and my expectations are high, and although my time with WAYK has just begun, I can already tell that this summer will be a life-changing experience for me, leading to a potential language-changing experience for my community down the road. I’m on the outer reaches of Alaska (if you don’t know where Atka, Alaska is, look it up right after reading this post!), spending the next two and a half months learning about and working on indigenous language revitalization efforts alongside a group of great, like-minded individuals while surrounded by beautiful landscapes and lots of food. What more could one ask for? Not much.

Post authored by Samuel.

Written by Evan Gardner