Having gone through the trauma of being part of the stolen generation, Uncle Harry (62) is proud of taking part in the Barngarla language reclamation project.
Although 17/18 languages are spoken in Port Augusta, which is the regional hub for the Aboriginal peoples, Uncle Harry believes that Barngarla are the original custodians of Port Augusta. Uncle Harry feels sad that he did not have an opportunity to hear/speak Barngarla until the age of forty because he was made to believe that he belonged to “Kokatha” mob. He said that it devastated him when he knew that he was oblivious of his own linguistic origin until then. However, he is thrilled that the starting point has been made towards reviving the Barngarla language. The next step is to get our people [Barngarla people] to reclaim the language. Pragmatic Uncle Harry is aware the task is not going to be easy; however, he is optimistic that nothing is impossible when the community is united and determined to achieve the goal.
Uncle Harry is amazed about the Barngarla dictionary. He is excited to know that some of the words that he has been speaking for ages are actually Barngarla words. And, it encourages him to know more about his language. He is of the view that one can even find some Barngarla words in English. Barngarla elders would be able to say those words that are borrowed by the English language.
Knowing that the language is not only a tool of communication but also an essential link with the ancestral knowledge, Uncle Harry insists that reviving a language is like rejuvenating the culture. Although he feels sad that he couldn’t talk about Barngarla language and culture to his sons when they were young, Uncle Harry has been teaching his grandchildren about the Barngarla culture and language. He articulates that it would be a great disservice to Barngarla ancestors, if the Barngarla words are misrepresented. Therefore, he exercises utmost caution while speaking Barngarla.
Stating that age is not a barrier to learn a language, Uncle Harry encourages everyone, particularly the younger generation, to speak Barngarla. He is positive that when everyone begins to communicate in Barngarla, the language will become a “living being” once again.