We have spent the past few days in the small town of Blue Creek, Belize. While here, we had the opportunity to visit the Tumul K’in Center of Learning for the surrounding Mayan community. The school teaches Mayan children from ages 13 to 20 everything from mathematics and English to traditional Mayan cultural knowledge. The school teaches sixty percent traditional academic classes like the mathematics and English courses while the remaining forty percent of classes center around their Mayan cultures and ancient knowledge. While this could potentially take away from the students’ opportunity to learn about the inter-workings of today’s world, it is still important that they learn about their complex cultural history that was so vital to their ancestor’s daily lives and general survival. During our visit with the Pamunkey Indians at the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, we were told by a native Warren Taylor that a lot of their cultural knowledge and history had been lost because it had not been passed on from generation to generation in the past couple centuries. Warren’s grandfather, Warren Cook, did not learn much from his father because he wanted a better, more modern-world oriented lifestyle for his son. This is why it is so important that the Mayans teach their students about their cultural history so is does not die with a generation.
We had the opportunity to visit with the Ack family while in Blue Creek, an average local family with seven children, two of which attended the Tumul K’in school. As we were trying to communicate with the youngest child of two years, his mother informed us that he does not understand English because they speak in their native Mayan language at home. The fact that the Ack family still speaks their native Mayan language at home in a country where the official language is the modern English shows that the people from this culture want to keep their ancient values, beliefs and language alive and close to heart. As seen with the Pamunkey, it is very easy to lose vital cultural knowledge if it is not passed on to the next generation. It is obvious how important this ancient culture is to the present Mayans at Blue Creek, and even if the class time could be spent learning more about how to be successful in today’s modern world, learning about their ancient traditions should be a priority as well. We have seen how easy it is for knowledge to be lost, and if the Mayans wish to ensure the preservation of their culture, it is a good thing they are teaching it in their school alongside the more modern classes.