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1949 - 2015
November 8, 1949 - December 1, 2015 NORMAN Memorial January 24, 2016 Activist and Indian Language Preservationist Dr. Alice Anderton Dr. Alice Jeanne Anderton, linguist, editor, teaching consultant, and Native American language preservationist, died Tuesday, December 1, in hospice care at her home in Norman. The cause was advanced appendicial adeno carcinoma, a rare form of abdominal cancer. Dr. Anderton was the founder and longtime Executive Director of the Intertribal Wordpath Society, whose major purpose was to support and partner with Native American (Indian) nations (tribes) in Oklahoma to help them promote teaching, awareness, use, and status of their languages, teach their children those languages, and so to celebrate and advance their cultures. The Board membership of the Intertribal Wordpath Society included primarily Otoe, Kiowa, Choctaw, Cherokee/Creek, Shawnee, Delaware, Comanche, Osage, Caddo, Yuchi, Ponca, and Pawnee. Scholar Dr. Richard Grounds, a Yuchi founding member of the Wordpath Board at the University of Tulsa Anthropology Department, explained the importance of Dr. Anderton's work: "All over Indian land today, the biggest crisis, the greatest issue, is keeping alive our original Indian language." Since 1989 Dr. Anderton taught variously at Oklahoma State University (Stillwater), the University of Oklahoma (Norman), Cameron College (Lawton) and the Red Earth Museum (Oklahoma City) in linguistics, writing, and Indian languages, while consulting, training, and teaching in Oklahoma Indian communities. Dr. Anderton produced more than 200 Wordpath television programs broadcast in Norman, in-depth interviews with elders of Oklahoma Indian nations, both in studio and though her own video work in the field. These elders explained their histories how their own native languages had been threatened and diminished by the necessity to master English for education, commerce, and public life, and how contemporary efforts like Dr. Anderton's helped them recover their languages and achieve what they could not have otherwise. As the Caddo artist Jereldine Redcorn said to her, for example, the Caddo dance celebrations now once again central to that group would not have been possible without Dr. Anderton's reteaching of the nearly lost Caddo dance songs. Alice Anderton was born in Richmond, Virigina and lived subsequently in various US and Canadian cities. She was graduated with honors at the age of 20 from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she was a member of the archery, fencing, and judo teams. She earned her Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1988 under the direction of the renowned scholar Dr. William Bright.On November 8, Dr. Anderton's life work was celebrated at the Jacobson House Native Art Center in Norman, OK by members of many American Indian groups, who expressed their gratitude for her work and what it meant to them and their communities. "Alice is a warrior," it was said - a warrior for peace, justice, the environment, human rights, Native Americans, culture, and decency. Another Wordpath Board member Brian Levy, now of New Orleans, said "For over 25 years, Dr. Anderton has lived and worked in Oklahoma, using her skills as a linguist to help Native Americans revitalize their languages through teaching, documentation, legislation, public awareness and more. She has been a tireless and selfless advocate for Indian languages and culture and her work has inspired many others to take up the cause of keeping the fires of culture burning bright." Publications by Alice Anderton include a dictionary of the Kitanumek language, Native American Place Names of the Southwest: A Handbook For Travellers (with William Bright), dictionaries, training manuals, many language aids in and for diverse languages, and numerous articles. She produced a dictionary of American Sign Language for which she had invented a writing system. She organized six annual celebrations of Indian Language and Culture in Oklahoma City, and wrote and lobbied for the Oklahoma Indian Languages Act, adopted unanimously by the Oklahoma Legislature. She commissioned and published the only survey to date of surviving native American language speakers in Oklahoma to show the need for that Act. She was one of eleven persons in Oklahoma who protested, testified, and helped overturn in the Oklahoma Supreme Court the English Only Law. Dr. Anderton travelled internationally in Europe, central America, and Asia. She was a longtime literacy tutor for youth and adults at the Norman Public Library. A flutist, bassoonist, and fiddler, she completed a full marathon between bouts of an earlier, severe, unrelated cancer. She was a co-director of the Green Party of Cleveland County, an environmental creek monitor for the Blue Thumb program since 2012, a founder of a weekly Norman peace vigil, and a Buddhist. Among other honors, Alice Anderton was named Oklahoma Multicultural Person of the Year. She was a founding member of the National Museum of the American Indian. Her presentations ranged from Humbolt University to the University of Pennsylvania to the Smithsonian Institution. She was a member of and presenter at the National Association of Bilingual Education.Dr. Anderton is survived by her loving sister Donna Kyle Anderton and sister-in-law Barbara Baker Bird of Bonita Springs, FL, brother Barry Bush Anderton and sister-in-law Judy Anderton of Richmond, VA. Predeceased by her parents Peggy Kyle Anderton and her father Roland Bush Anderton of Atlanta, she was 66. Friends and family of Dr. Alice Anderton will hold a memorial service to celebrate her life at the West Wind Unitarian Universalist Church at 1309 W. Boyd Street in Norman, on January 24, 2016, at 2:15 PM. All are welcome.In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenter.org), the American Civil Liberties Union (www.aclu.org), Heiffer International (www.heiffer.org), or National Public Radio or television (www.npr.org).
Published in The Oklahoman on Jan. 10, 2016
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