February 10, 2023
Native American man to interpret 'America the Beautiful' in sign language at Super Bowl LVII
KSUT | By Clark Adomaitis
In this year’s Superbowl, one of the performers in the pre-game show will interpret "America the Beautiful" using a blend of American Sign Language and North American Indian Sign Language.
32-year-old Colin Denny grew up in the Navajo Nation. He now works as a research assistant at the University of Arizona, studying Native American sign languages at the Department of Disabilities and Psychoeducational Studies.
While he could hear as young child, his hearing loss progressed as he got older,
“I became hard of hearing at the age of five. At the age of 13, my hearing loss progressed,” he told the University of Arizona, for a recent article about him.
Denny and his parents visited the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind campus in Tucson. It was a life-changing moment for him.
"I was living so isolated, I felt there was nobody like me," Denny said. "But when I got to the campus, I realized, 'Oh my gosh, there is a language, there is a community for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.'"
Since then, Denny has been pursuing sign language skills–studying it in college and then as a research assistant research assistant in the University of Arizona College of Education, working with Melanie McKay-Cody.
McKay-Cody studies endangered tribal sign languages.
Colin Denny will perform a sign language interpretation of "America the Beautiful" during the Superbowl pregame show in Glendale, Ariz.
Colin Denny will accompany the singer Babyface, employing a blend of American Sign Language and North American Indian Sign Language.
Denny is a research assistant at the University of Arizona, studying Native American sign languages at the Department of Disabilities and Psychoeducational Studies. He was born in Shiprock, N.M., and grew up in Pinon, Ariz. A story from the University of Arizona says Denny was able to hear as an infant, but his parents noticed his hearing loss from an early age.
“I became hard of hearing at the age of five. At the age of 13, my hearing loss progressed. And from that experience, I realized that I was very lucky to attend the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind. That's where I acquired the language that I needed. I couldn't get that within my community at home.”
“There is no Navajo sign language. It's now been reduced just down to a gestural language. The tribes have their own sign languages. But I realized that there was language here, there always has been language. And American Sign Language was not the first language to be here. But there's no documentation,” Denny spoke to the press through a sign language interpreter about his education.
Denny says that Native Sign Languages, or Hand Talk, were once used widely across tribes, especially as a means of communication between tribes that have different spoken languages. He hopes the performance will raise awareness about Native sign languages.
Voices From the Edge of the Colorado Plateau seeks to cover underrepresented communities in the Four Corners. KSUT provided editing and web production for this story.
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