GaelicUSA fosters greater appreciation of the diversity in American culture by recovering and celebrating Scottish Gaelic language and history, and coordinating with and strengthening today’s Gaelic community in the United States. We welcome anyone with an interest in participating in Scottish Gaelic culture and heritage.
We, the undersigned activists, scholars and artists, are convinced that the time is right to create an entity to lead a sustained and systematic effort to recover and reclaim the Gaelic language and heritage of the Scottish Highland diaspora in the United States. Gaelic is enjoying renewed support and recognition in Scotland, and although the language and culture remain in a perilous condition there, we believe that we can best contribute to the efforts to secure a bright future for Gaelic by:
- Recovering Scottish Gaelic linguistic and cultural heritage as it has survived and evolved in immigrant communities, and;
- Coordinating with and supporting the contemporary American Gaelic community.
Gaelic culture and history is as rich and complex as that of any other society, and deserves to be taken seriously. It is, however, largely absent in the mainstream representation of Scottish-American heritage. This is in part due to the fact that Gaelic culture and history have not yet been academically developed in the diaspora, especially not in the U.S.
In our view, the foundation’s inaugural campaign should be to raise funds to endow a chair of Scottish Gaelic Studies at an appropriate American university where a program of study could be developed. No such academic infrastructure exists or is currently underway in the United States. Efforts to legitimate and represent Gaelic as a salient element of our national story and to support a contemporary ethnic identity worthy of attention and patronage will be deficient without a sound basis in scholarship to articulate a mature understanding of the history of the Scottish Gaelic diaspora. This is a logical first step.
Scottish Gaelic is enjoying expanded attention in the United States at present due to its representation in popular culture, such as in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. This need not be merely a matter of escapism and fantasy, however. Understanding the legacy of Highland immigrants and reflecting on it critically gives us a lens through which to reflect on contemporary issues and challenges, from the treatment of refugees and the poor to the policies of forced assimilation and cultural genocide. Not only individuals but communities and ethnic groups have rights regarding their linguistic and cultural heritage. These rights need to be acknowledged and valued.
The way we treat others and lay the groundwork for the future is conditioned by the way we treat ourselves and perceive the past. Recognizing the losses experienced by Scottish Gaeldom and celebrating its accomplishments, free of the constraints of anglocentrism, will enable us to not only understand history and culture in a more complete and less biased manner, it will facilitate the realization of the American motto “E pluribus unum.”
Scope of Work
The work of Gaelic USA is
- To encourage and support the development of the study of Scottish Gaelic language, literature, history, and culture in our institutions of higher learning, so that the cultural achievements of the Highland diaspora on this continent can be rediscovered, reclaimed and properly understood.
- To facilitate the flow of information from academic research to the general public so that those who engage in and celebrate Scottish heritage(s) in the United States are informed by sound scholarship and so that useful resources and best practices can be developed and/or recommended.
- To provide grants and other assistance in support of community, regional and national Gaelic language and cultural revitalization initiatives operating in or benefitting the United States.
- To advocate for the representation and celebration of Gaelic history and culture in Scottish American heritage organizations and activities.
- To coordinate and work with other contemporary ethnic communities toward achieving common goals and interests, especially those that involve the revitalization of language and culture for marginalized communities and better appreciation of cultural diversity in the United States.
An Inclusive Approach
Gaelic has never been the language of a single religion: it has been spoken by pagans, Catholics, Protestants, deists, agnostics and atheists, at the very least. Gaelic is not the exclusive property of people of any particular gender identity or sexual orientation. Neither does the concept of race – a modern, socially-constructed notion of identity serving the purposes of exclusion and domination – accurately reflect the complex realities of Scottish identity or heritage.
Gaelic speakers of the medieval era had many ethnic origins, and today, people of all skin colors and physical features should feel entitled to claim and celebrate their Gaelic ancestry. Even people without any Gaelic ancestry can make important contributions to the wider community and should be encouraged to do so.
Now, more than ever, people have the freedom to not only choose their ethnic allegiances but to claim and engage in multiple ethnic identities simultaneously. Any community that does not welcome and celebrate the energy and enthusiasm of all participants in an inclusive manner will be self-limiting and unsustainable. The co-option of Celtic and Scottish identity by groups with an implicit or overtly white-supremacist agenda needs to be countered by an explicitly inclusive and culturally-focused agenda.