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Preserving Culture

2. How and why to preserve culture
Motivations are important
Why should one consider to preserve a culture?
Are we preserving? Or are we really just protecting the people's right to choose?
Missionaries claim that cultures change. They do, but that does not justify what missionaries do to gut language and culture in a community in order to gain control of the people for their own uses.
The issue becomes choice and identifying ways in which the ongoing mission come colonials continue to lie about what they are doing.

Protecting a language?
Missionaries often note that they speak Akha at the mission schools. Good. But what they don't mention is that they have done all that they can to destroy the content of the language by forbidding the culture, so that it is only window dressing. They have taken out all the nouns and verbs that make the content of the language uniquely Akha. All the oral traditions have been destroyed. The link between parents and child is broken or destroyed. We think it is criminal and that they missionaries in Thailand should be prosecuted for what they are doing to the Akha people.

Identity. The cuture gave birth to the people and is a result in many cases of the indigenous, of thousands of years of passed down knowledge that protects the people.

If one has the best interests of a people in mind then they must work from within, rather than from without, and this means to do all in one's power to protect culture and language which are the components of identity.

Cultures change very slowly if at all as a means of self protection.

People who say that all cultures change are probably missionaries or people who have no interst in protecting culture. 

Culture however is the means by which people are, the more of it which is preserved, the better identity and stability the children will have.

Working from a sympathetic standpoint, one can take on various projects from preserving and recording language, to promoting cultural events in the society.

Addressing those who attack the culture is also beneficial, to help them to become aware that what they are doing is destructive, or at least that they should stop.

It is pretty hard to say one cares about Akha people while trying to make the individual into a good Swiss person or a good American. To care for the one is to care for the other.

Even for people who grew up seperated from their language and culture, as in the case of adoptees and orphans, there yet remains an internal part that carries on, without the visible reasons for it, which creates conflict and unrest in the individual.


Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation