Awakuni-Swetland, Price collect research awards

Sep 11th, 2008 | By | Category: Research, September 11, 2008

Two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities will support UNL digital humanities research projects. Kenneth Price, University Professor and Hillegass Chair of 19th-Century American Literature, and Mark Awakuni-Swetland, assistant professor of anthropology and ethnic studies, recently received major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A grant celebration was held Sept. 9 at the Visitors Center.

Awakuni-Swetland and his colleagues are creating a comprehensive Omaha and Ponca digital dictionary, which will be available online for native communities, students, researchers and the public. A $348,800 NEH grant funds this work through a joint NEH-National Science Foundation-Smithsonian Institution Documenting Endangered Languages” initiative. It’s also a “We the People” project, a special NEH recognition for model projects advancing the study, teaching and understanding of American history and culture.

Awakuni-Swetland hopes this project will make it easier to teach, preserve and revive the language.

“We’re going to dust off a historically and linguistically important collection of Omaha and Ponca language,” Awakuni-Swetland said.

Twenty years ago at the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives, Awakuni-Swetland microfilmed the field notes and unpublished lexicon of James Owen Dorsey, a 19th century ethnographer and linguist. The dictionary will include Dorsey’s 20,000 handwritten slips – each containing an Omaha word, most with an English translation. Words will be transcribed into modern spelling systems, and linguists and native speakers will add grammatical information and cultural notes.

“Many of Dorsey’s slips include sample sentences in Omaha that describe how the Omaha were living in the 1870s-1890s. Its a treasure of both language and Omaha history,” he said.

Awakuni-Swetland, an adopted member of an Omaha tribe family, developed an Omaha language program at UNL. He is collaborating with UNL’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, and Catherine Rudin, linguistics professor at Wayne State College.

Price received a $300,000 grant from the NEH to support his editing of Walt Whitman’s writings about the Civil War. The funds will enable Price to complete the interdisciplinary project by 2011, in time for the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the war.

“In ‘Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings’ I propose to electronically edit, arrange, annotate and publish, often for the first time, key documents that give voice to Whitman’s experience of the war,” Price said.

Price also recently received an additional $155,000 in awards to support his Whitman research.

Story by Sara Gilliam, University Communications

Tags: , , ,

Leave Comment