Ethnobotanist, Wade Davis, says “a language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules…Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind.”
The Sirionó people are one of Bolivia’s 36 recognized ethnic groups. They live in the Beni region of the Bolivian Amazon in and around two central communities: Pata de Aguila and Ibiato. The Alma Foundation is working with the schools in both communities to create a formal curriculum for the Sirionó language, utilizing the rich cultural knowledge of community elders and the creative abilities of the children.
In the Sirionó community of Ibiato, Alma is working with the 75 primary school students and their Sirionó language teacher to create an active curriculum to: 1) reinforce the Sirionó language and 2) create a library of Siriono texts to be used in the classroom.
Throughout the school year, students are tasked with collecting interviews, stories, traditional knowledge, history, vocabulary, etc. in Sirionó from their older siblings, parents, grandparents, and extended family. All information is then edited and formatted to create subject-specific text and story books which will be professionally printed and given to the school to be used in years to come.
Through the project we hope to:
- Develop a strong and creative-approach Sirionó language curriculum
- Provide academic text and story books to the Ibiato Primary School
- Improve students’ creative writing and reading comprehension skills
- Reinforce the Sirionó language in the community
Currently, the only Sirionó text in the community is a work-in-progress dictionary and a bible translated by missionaries in the 1970’s. Our project will provide various texts for all primary school grade levels in the Sirionó language with the cultural and educational information that the community itself deems necessary for its children to learn.
Furthermore, because the community members themselves are creating the text, the project ties in perfectly with the new Bolivia education reform law known as Ley 070. The law states that all school must create a curriculum which includes a productive capacity and local indigenous culture/language. The creation of Sirionó texts does all of the above.
We hope that this project can be replicated by local and regional government throughout the region in the future.