Glimpses of the Animist Language-World

Joseph Rael, of the Thunder Caller Clan, grew up in Picurís Pueblo in northern New Mexico. When he was 6, his family moved there from the Ute Reservation in southern Colorado, and he had to learn three new languages: Tewa, which was spoken at Picurís; Spanish, the language of people in the surrounding villages; and English, which was taught at Indian Day School.

“I felt like I’d walked into another dimension in time . . . another reality,” he said.

To illustrate, he described the experience of getting water at the communal well. “In English, it meant to me the Pavlovian thing. You hear the words, run to the buckets, get them, go outside, get to the pump, get the water and then you bring it back.

“Now, here’s what it means in Tewa. Aah-paah-ii-meh (ah pa HI may). ‘Aah’ is purity and clarity. ‘Paah’ is light. ‘Ii’ is awareness. ‘Meh’ is movement. When I went to get water, I became the activities I was doing. I became purity … clarity … light … awareness … and movement.”, “Scientists, linguists and Native leaders gather to explore different world views”

Written by Willem