Library of Congress Hosts Premiere of “Language Is Life,” an Episode from the PBS series Native America

Published : Friday, November 3, 2023, 3:39 pm
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The Library of Congress will premiere one of four new episodes of the acclaimed PBS series “Native America” on Nov. 9, focused on Native people’s efforts to preserve their languages and ways of life. The film, which features Library collections, will be followed by a panel discussion on Indigenous language preservation, as part of the Library’s celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Narrated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Season 2 of “Native America” offers viewers a groundbreaking portrait of contemporary Indian Country. Building on the success of its first season, this Native-directed four-part series, produced by Providence Pictures, showcases the beauty and strength of today’s Indigenous communities.

Filmed by Emmy Award-winning cinematographers, each hour-long episode explores core tenets of Native American heritage through dynamic stories of the here and now and a robust dialogue between past and present.

Episode four, titled “Language Is Life,” features Passamaquoddy field recordings housed in the Library’s American Folklife Center. In collaboration with the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, the American Folklife Center is aiding the Passamaquoddy tribe with recovery and preservation of their language and songs. These historic and fragile recordings, originally captured on wax cylinders dating back to the late 19th century, have been made more accessible through digital technologies. The episode also explores digital scans of Cherokee writing found in a Georgia cave and Star Wars films dubbed into Navajo.

“The Library of Congress has been working with the Passamaquoddy tribe for many years to safeguard these 1890 wax cylinder recordings. This effort accelerated with the advent of digital technologies that allow the recordings to be played and understood better than ever before,” said Nicole Saylor, director of the Library’s American Folklife Center. “We are delighted to see that the tribe has been able to make use of the recordings to revitalize language traditions, through the efforts of language keepers like Dwayne Tomah and Donald Soctomah. We’re committed to continuing this work, and we’re very grateful to PBS and the ‘Native America’ series for bringing Dwayne and Donald’s work to a wider audience.”

The premiere event will take place at 6 p.m. ET in the Members Room of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, followed by a panel discussion with Native elders, Library experts and PBS representatives. Panelists include Donald Soctomah, a tribal historic preservation officer for the Passamaquoddy tribe; Gary Glassman, executive producer with Providence Pictures, and Daniel Golding (Quechan), series producer and director.

Registration for the screening and panel discussion is required and more information can be found here. “Native America” airs every Tuesday from Oct. 24 to Nov. 14, at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, and will be available to stream for free on and the PBS App through the duration of Native American Heritage Month.

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