Part of the mission of GaelicUSA is to expand awareness of Scottish Gaelic heritage and culture among all Scottish Americans and to encourage greater interaction between all organizations within the Scottish Diaspora. We are excited to know that we have great company in our efforts to highlight the importance of Gaelic culture and heritage in the wider Scottish American story.
We are defining ourselves carefully, however, so that we do not overlap with the missions of other societies but can instead complement and coordinate with them to better support Scottish Gaelic in the United States. In summary, we are the only organization whose primary goals are to develop a space for Scottish Highland heritage in higher education in the U.S. (read more on this webpage) and to bring the knowledge and perspectives from scholarship into the contemporary understanding and celebration of Scottish heritage.
GaelicUSA is still early in its mission, but we have begun to form partnerships and bonds with other Scottish heritage organizations in the US.
GaelicUSA is grateful to have received critical early support from Scottish Heritage USA. SHUSA was created in 1965, making it one of the oldest national Scottish American organizations. Its founding mission, followed today, is
to recognize and enhance the original bonds of ancestral and national character among the peoples of Scotland and North America; and to disseminate knowledge of their respective cultural heritages; and in furtherance of such purposes to support the preservation of historic sites, the maintenance of centers of artistic and literary endeavor and such other activities as may be appropriate.
Slighe nan Gàidheal is an organization based in the Seattle area that teaches the Scottish Gaelic language and related forms of cultural expression (especially music and song) to people there. They have a very active and enthusiastic membership which gathers for regular classes and social events, the highlight of which is Féis Shiatal, held every other year.
An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach / The American Scottish Gaelic Society is an umbrella organization that attempts to coordinate and encourage the activity of a number of smaller, local groups teaching Scottish Gaelic in informal, community settings. They sponsor and coordinate two annual events (the Grandfather Mountain Gaelic Song and Language Week and the U.S. National Mòd), as well as produce a quarterly newsletter for members full of useful materials for learning Gaelic and keeping in touch with Gaelic news.
Both of these two latter groups do excellent work and members of their leadership are or have been on our board of directors. The remit of these groups is to connect people (mostly adults) interested in learning Gaelic to people in their community who have chosen to offer group lessons, usually at a minimal cost, in informal settings. ACGA offers scholarships to students who have chosen to go to Scotland to learn Gaelic, given that very strong programs and departments exist at several universities there (but none in the U.S.). Some ACGA members have also been creating radio programs and podcasts for Gaelic speakers to listen to for education and entertainment (such as Ar Guthan). Although Slighe and ACGA sometimes have a presence at Scottish Highland Games or other such Scottish-themed events, they do not, by and large, attempt to engage with other Scottish heritage organizations in a sustained dialogue about Gaelic.
The mission of UGSA / GaelicUSA, by way of contrast, is to foster the development of Scottish Gaelic at the formal level of higher education and to lobby for the representation of Scottish Gaelic in the mainstream of Scottish heritage organizations. Although we want to support the work of teaching the language and culture through fund-raising, awareness raising, and promotion, it is not the purpose of this organization to do that work directly ourselves.
Even if aspiring young scholars become fluent in Scottish Gaelic and wish to pursue scholarship in this important strand of our national story, they will not find an institution of higher learning willing to allow them to develop this research until we gather the support for them to do so. While there is a reasonable number of people with the skills to speak and teach Gaelic, in formal and informal settings, their talents need greater support to ensure the teaching of the language and culture can be sustained, that the language and culture are treated with the dignity and value that they deserve, and that organizations intended to represent Scottish heritage in its fulness hear the Gaelic voice in the American story despite the long history of silence and silencing.
There are a number of organizations doing similar work for other ethnic groups which can provide us with models and inspiration for our efforts.