SLICE (Sustaining Languages through Indigenous Community Empowerment) was founded in 2016 to address the underlying socio-economic causes of language shift and language endangerment in the Eastern Himalayan region. Unlike some other parts of the world, in which language endangerment in Indigenous communities is the outcome of decades if not centuries of maltreatment and neglect, language endangerment in the Eastern Himalayan region is largely brought about unwittingly, through choices made by individuals seeking improved socio-economic circumstances. SLICE aims to identify and implement targeted, well-researched and highly localized interventions that will substantially enhance the abilities of Indigenous community members to independently sustain their traditional lifestyles, and to bring about social and economic conditions that encourage heritage language maintenance and transfer. Some examples based on past or planned interventions:
– a village lacking a rice mill is compelled to either spend large amounts of time manually processing rice paddy, or to transport harvests outside the village for milling. Purchase of one or more community rice mills is a relatively small-scale intervention that can substantially enhance the economic security of a village and free up large amounts of time and resources for other activities.
– inhabitants of a village lacking a local supply depot are often compelled to walk for many hours and sometimes days to access basic necessities such as flashlight/torch batteries, salt, tea, cooking implements, and pharmaceuticals. Leveraging local support networks to negotiate a supply concession for such a village can both free up enormous amounts of time for all villagers, it can also stimulate the local economy.
– traditional agricultural systems in the Eastern Himalaya generally rely on shifting cultivation to sustain soil fertility and maintain production levels. The addition of kitchen gardens based on collection and composting of organic wastes can substantially enhance reliable access to a variety of food types, and reduce dependence on external supply networks.
– the single largest contributor to language endangerment and shift in some areas of Arunachal Pradesh is the use of residential schools for young children whose parents hope for them to be educated in English. Being educated outside their language area deprives a child of thousands of hours of language instruction and experience in her native language, and renders further transmission complex if not impossible. A teacher- training centre in Pasighat and other population centres will sustain itself economically through providing language classes to local children and adults, and train and fund teachers to service remote areas to a higher standard than the public education system can at present provide.