On Thursday, Nov. 25, while Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving, the Indigenous Peoples in the Peruvian Amazon were commemorating the 58
anniversary of the implementation of Bilingual Schools in their communities. Their keynote speaker was Pilar Valenzuela, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Languages at Chapman University, who delivered the talk titled “The Languages of the Peruvian Amazon and their Grammar,” via Skype. The presentation was attended by a group of approximately 250 bilingual teachers who gathered in the city of Pucallpa.
Most of them were members of the Shipibo, Ashaninka, and Yine ethnic groups.
According to Shipibo bilingual teachers Luis Márquez Pinedo and Ronald Suárez, this was the first time that the Indigenous Peoples of the Ucayali made use of a new technology such as Skype to have access to a leading expert in the languages of the region. “It is a great honor to be able to have Pilar Valenzuela among us again. She is a renowned linguist and a very good friend, who has carried out research in our communities for very many years and has contributed to the training of bilingual teachers,” they said in the introduction.
Dr. Valenzuela’s talk dealt with the importance of Amazonian linguistics, both for the Indigenous Peoples as well as Western science, presented an overview of typologically-salient grammatical features, and highlighted the need to continue the intergenerational transmission of the native languages.
As for working on Thanksgiving Day, Dr. Valenzuela says “I cannot think of a better way to spend Thanksgiving. I am extremely grateful to the various Indigenous communities who, throughout the years, have welcomed me, and have generously and patiently taught me their languages and other aspects of their way of life.”