ABOUT THIS BOOK
Naming the World examines language shift among the Northern Arapaho of the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming, and the community’s diverse responses as it seeks social continuity. Andrew Cowell argues that, rather than a single “Arapaho culture,” we find five distinctive communities of practice on the reservation, each with differing perspectives on social and more-than-human power and the human relationships that enact power.
As the Arapaho people resist Euro-American assimilation or domination, the Arapaho language and the idea that the language is sacred are key rallying points—but also key points of contestation. Cowell finds that while many at Wind River see the language as crucial for maintaining access to more-than-human power, others primarily view the language in terms of peer-oriented identities as Arapaho, Indian, or non-White. These different views lead to quite different language usage and attitudes in relation to place naming, personal naming, cultural metaphors, new word formation, and the understudied practice of folk etymology.
Cowell presents data from conversations and other natural discourse to show the diversity of everyday speech and attitudes, and he links these data to broader debates at Wind River and globally about the future organization of indigenous societies and the nature of Arapaho and indigenous identity.