Indigenous peoples using Drupal: Kanhgág Jógo

by ze on Sat, 02/04/2011 - 19:12

A few years ago, we've been "recruited" by a Linguistics professor to help build a website for the Kaingang people to use.

I've met professor Wilmar D'Angelis when I studied Linguistics at the University of Campinas, where he is a researcher on South American indigenous languages. He has worked with a lot of indigenous nations in Brazil, amongst them the Kaingangs, a nation of ~30 thousand people from Southern Brazil (mainly Paraná and Santa Catarina), part of them living in villages in the pine forests, some of them living near or in cities and towns.

There are currently a little less than 200 indigenous languages in Brazil and Kaingang language is one of the healthiest, since in many villages it's still spoken as a first language. At the same time, this group is pretty much integrated into white culture, having access to technology, computers and Internet. Of course, most of times, this "integration" is, well, less than "nice", but in recent decades there have been some positive points to mention. Namely, (i) public schools built in or nearby the villages, with some courses in native language; and (ii) open doors for many Kaingangs to take graduate in State Universities.

Thus, the question is not whether the Kaingangs will be connected Internet or not, they already are. The question is what web they will have for them, whether they will have it only in Portuguese of if they will be able to use their own language. The efforts are, therefore, towards enabling native peoples to use the Internet in native languages (and with a certain degree of autonomy).

Drupal, of course. What else?

And that's where we came aboard.

We've developed back in 2008, a simple Drupal community website, Kanhgág Jógo, which is Kaingang for "Kaingang net". The website is in Kaingang, with two main sections - a wiki and a newspage - and some minor sections, such as a list of personal names (for naming children in the native language) and a list of villages. There was not much room for complexity, since the Internet access is usually slow (in remote locations) and browsers are not guaranteed to be state-of-the-art.

Two nifty custom additions were a hack (yes, poor kittens) to make Drupal display the interface in Portuguese if a Kaingang translation is not available (and mostly they weren't. The site is equipped with a on-the-fly interface translator, so that Drupal's interface is translated to kaingang on build-as-you-go basis). The other one is a virtual keyboard for typing special accented characters needed for Kaingang's orthography, such as ẽỹũ, not easily typed in the computers used by them.

(Kanhgág Jógo is currently having some face-lift, to cleanup some less used sections and improve the website for the need of its users.)

This is a simple action, with a simple website, but it has a great impact. The great thing about the web is that it enables people to reach each other, in their own terms, in their own language.


Guess that's how easy Drupal is to use. I use Drupal 7 myself to manage my cosmetics site and it takes minimal knowledge to use. Amazing to see how indigenous people are also using it ;)

Allison Skin @ jojoba oil

i love drupal and the version 7 is amazing , i use in all sites i make .

yes is true is the best CMS available