Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Erich Fox Tree presented a lecture titled “Recovering the History and Prestige of Indigenous Sign Languages in Mesoamerica” on Oct. 7 at SUNY Oneonta. Fox Tree discussed the deep history of the ancient sign languages and new methods used to study them, as well as changes in paradigms that dominate the study of sign languages and the communities that use them.
Drawing on examples of gestures in ancient Mesoamerican artwork Fox Tree argued that this artwork “may be crucial for helping promote the endangered languages, advance the human rights position of their users, and potentially recover their former prestige.” He said he hoped the talk would “inspire people to pay attention to not only the history of these languages, but the dire human rights situation they currently face.”
Fox Tree and his wife, Julia Gómez Ixmatá, a K'ichee' Maya from Guatemala, were interviewed in Spanish and K'ichee'-Maya on KPFK, a radio station serving the large first, second and third generation Maya immigrant population of Southern California on Oct. 10. A recording of their interview on "Contacto Ancestral" (or "Ancestral Contact") will be archived for the next month at http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive/ and can be found under the date and time-code: Monday, October 10, 10:30 pm. The interview can be found in the last 30 minutes of the one-hour program.