December 27, 2006

Dakota gym talks

AMERICAN INDIAN ISSUES:  Grants help preserve fading native languagesWith soup and conversation in a college gym, members of the Spirit Lake tribe are trying to keep their language alive.

People gather in the tribal college gym every other Tuesday for conversational Dakota language instruction.

“To do it in a nonclassroom, nonthreatening setting, just to get people talking,” said Cynthia Lindquist, president of Candeska Cikana or “Little Hoop” Tribal College.

December 23, 2006

Hope for Native languages

Language revitalization efforts bloomed in 2006Immersion programs

In central New York, the Oneidas contracted with Berlitz, a well-known education company, to teach the scarce language to adults in their community. Berlitz "took revolutionary steps" to find fluent speakers capable of teaching the language and had to travel to Canada to find them. A small community of Oneidas living on the Thames River was approached and two fluent speakers were flown to central New York to begin the spread of knowledge.

In the Akwesasne community along the northern New York border, an immersion program is teaching children in pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade the traditional Mohawk language by schooling them in a homelike environment. Children of various ages are kept in the same classroom and with several teachers in the room the language flows naturally and children pick it up just like they would at home.


Such cutting-edge technology is currently making its way to assist the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee received a federal grant this year (which it plans to match) that will enable it to buy "Phraselators." The handheld computers will be programmed using the voice of a tribal member and will enable students in the community's language immersion program to have English translated into Cherokee (and vice versa) with the touch of a button. Other tribes have also purchased the device, which was invented for military use.

Apple Computer Inc. has also been approached regarding the possibility of putting language learning software on its popular iPod--a handheld device capable of storing documents and audio and video files.

December 19, 2006

Box set promotes Kiowa

Kiowa Children’s Books Boxed for Christmas DeliveryFive years after the release of her first Kiowa language textbook, author Alecia “Sahmah” Gonzales is compiling her five Kiowa storybooks into one complete box set targeted for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Grounded in her own Native roots, the stories are both educational and entertaining.

Readers see the bilingual stories in both Kiowa and English, shown parallel to one another on the page. For non-Native speakers, a special CD-ROM is included that features the author reading the story in both languages.

Language helps and heals

Grants meant to preserve languageSen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who is in line to be chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said he pushed for the legislation because it is part of retaining Indian culture.

Native language programs on some reservations have shown benefits beyond language, he said.

"The kids who are participating in these programs also have better academic performance," Dorgan said.
And:A renaissance of traditional cultures has been spreading through many tribes in recent years, which has helped American Indians reconnect with their heritage, Lindquist said. That, in turn, helped boost self-esteem and combat alcohol and drug abuse, among other problems, she said

"The healing is coming through the culture," Lindquist said. "Language and culture are entwined."

December 17, 2006

No language, no identity

Vanishing identity?Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. expressed to the world the importance of Navajo language during a June speech delivered to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The speech was in Paris.

"For one to truly be Diné, one must speak the language of the Diné. Only in this way will one understand the songs, the prayers and ceremonies that have been passed down orally through countless generations of our people," he said.

So when the 2006 Data Trends Summary for Annual Health Survey revealed that only 5 percent of Navajo school-aged children could speak Navajo fluently, tribal leaders and educators re-energized their effort, to find a way to keep and revitalize their language. They consider it the basis of Navajo identity.

December 15, 2006

It's official

Native language preservation bill becomes lawA bill that will help tribes preserve their languages was signed into law by President Bush on Thursday.

H.R.4766, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, authorizes funding for new programs that tribes will use to prevent the loss of their heritage and culture. "These languages will be preserved with attention and effort. Once lost, they will never be recovered," said Ryan Wilson, the president of the National Indian Education Association.

December 12, 2006

Kiowa sings for posterity

Kiowa elder tells tribal history through song[P]hysical infirmities cannot keep the 74-year-old Kiowa elder from a date he made with posterity. Several times a month, in the living room of his small wood-frame home, he sings old American Indian songs into a university professor’s digital tape recorder to preserve them for all Oklahomans, not just Indians.

Since then, the pair has made a public service video in the Kiowa language about Indians and diabetes risk, and they recently posted a clip of Satepauhoodle singing in Kiowa on YouTube, the popular video-sharing site.

Cherokee-language baseball caps

Cap sales to benefit Cherokee programsIn efforts to preserve and promote its language, the Cherokee Nation has created baseball caps depicting the logos of three Oklahoma universities written in Cherokee.

Fans of the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University or Northeastern State University can buy the caps for $14.99 each at several Cherokee gift shops statewide. By Monday, about half the 720 caps ordered had been sold.

About 70 cents of each dollar will go back to the nation for education, job creation, health and social programs, such as Cherokee language immersion classes.

New World revives Algonquian

A Dead Indian Language Is Brought Back to Life[I]n a story with starring roles for a university linguist, sloppy 17th-century scribes and a perfectionist Hollywood director making a movie about Jamestown, the language that scholars call Virginia Algonquian has come back from the dead.

The result, for Virginia Indians such as Custalow, has been a stunning opportunity--to speak in words that their grandparents never knew.

Sauk language video

Sauk language video pilot for series targeted toward pre-K language learning environment.

December 11, 2006

Immersed in Omaha

Teacher honored for preserving tribe's culture, traditions

The approach for first-graders:The classroom is like an earthlodge, the Omahas' traditional dwelling: it's circular, opens to the east, and has a smoke hole (skylight) at the center of its lofted ceiling. The modern version is a cultural immersion chamber.

On a recent day, Judy Prewett's first-graders file into the classroom and sit on the floor in two rows facing one another. Stabler holds up one stuffed animal at a time--fish, bear, horse, dog--identifying each by its Omaha word. She tosses them all onto the floor and, speaking Omaha, taps one student at a time to identify the word she is saying and retrieve the matching animal. She encourages, then praises them in Omaha.
The approach for high-schoolers:The high school students are integrating their knowledge of the Omaha language into the daily life of the community. They produce programs for sports and other events on the reservation which they computer-design using graphics and blending Omaha-language titles with the English-language elements.

And, the high school students taking Omaha Language II are required to teach an elementary class, which means they, too, learn the songs and games. Such familiar songs as "Silent Night," "Twinkle, Twinkle," and "Ring-Around the Rosie" have been translated into Omaha and are used in class.

December 08, 2006

Language bill passes

Native language act ready for Bush's signatureA bill named in honor of a Native language teacher who died after receiving a national award for her efforts finally cleared Congress this week.

"Native languages continue to diminish with each generation and the programs authorized by this bill will go a long way to restore this important piece of Native culture and bridge the gap between the old and young generations," said Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota).

November 28, 2006

More on Frazier's bequest

Author underwrites effort to translate his best-seller into CherokeeIn writing the follow-up to his best-selling debut "Cold Mountain," novelist Charles Frazier borrowed the history of the Cherokee Indians and their forced removal from the mountains of his native western North Carolina for the setting of "Thirteen Moons."

As a way of giving back to the Eastern Band of Cherokees, Frazier is translating a portion of the novel and other books into the Cherokee language. They will be the first contemporary works translated into the tribal tongue in 175 years.

"I'm just glad that this happened during my lifetime," said Myrtle Driver, an Eastern Band member who is helping Frazier translate the section of "Thirteen Moons" that chronicles the tribe's removal from their Appalachian homeland to Oklahoma in the late 1830s. "I feel like my life is complete."

November 25, 2006

Indian schools help

Indian Schools Help Students Connect With Their CultureIndian schools, once a term connected to this country's history of using educational facilities to assimilate American Indians into a new society, are back under different circumstances. This time, the schools are becoming havens for the native culture, a place where the languages, music and arts--all part of a heritage that has been slipping away over generations--can live and grow.

The resurgence of Indian schools is attributed in part to the growing charter school movement. There are currently 53 Native American charter schools across the country, 31 of which are located on non-tribal lands, according to the Center for Education Reform.

November 18, 2006

Passamaquoddy book provides balance

Children's book teaches Indian cultureThe Passamaquoddy Tribe has teamed up with a lakes conservation organization to produce an illustrated book that uses tribal oral history to teach children about living in balance with the natural world.

The book, "Wind Bird: Gift of the Mist," recounts the tale of Gluskop who attempts to save his village by manipulating nature. But the endeavor backfires and his people must learn to live in concert with nature.

The book, which is being distributed free to all elementary schools across Maine, grew out of an existing partnership between the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Maine Lakes Conservancy Institute.

Elder preserves Lushootseed

Native language lives in womanHilbert has dedicated her life to the rebirth of Lushootseed. She worked in the linguistics department at the University of Washington for 15 years. In 1989, she received an honorary doctorate from Seattle University and was named a Washington State Living Treasure.

Hilbert has worked closely with linguists to develop a written form of Lushootseed and publish dictionaries for the language.

November 10, 2006

English = genocide?

Joe Shirley Jr., newly reelected president of the Navajo Nation, makes an important point about English-only laws in Newspaper Rock.

November 01, 2006

Educators rally to save languages

Education leader urges federal preservation of Native languagesIndian educators have been called upon to unify in a lobbying effort to restore federal legislation that will curb damage to Native language programs.

Ryan Wilson, president of the National Indian Education Association, chose the venue of the association's 37th annual convention to rally about 1,500 educators to curb the loss of Native languages by supporting efforts to push federal legislation that will increase educational immersion programs.

Playwriting motivates kids

Actors inspire young writers at tribal schoolThis is the second time MAPP taught the Young Native Playwrights program at the Coeur d'Alene Tribal School and the results both times were stunning, according to Willard, who said last year's program proved to be a groundbreaking experience that impressed on students how valid their ideas are.

"The playwrights were really impacted," he said. "This opened up a whole new world to them. It gave them an idea about their capabilities that they never even fathomed. The rest of the year, behavior problems in those kids dropped to zero. I had kids that were bringing in their math homework after that. It was like the ripple effect of dropping a rock in the water. It wasn't just writing. It was their lives."

Validation = success

Heritage key to education for Natives

Native survival, success depends on cultural heritageAlaska Native students tend to complete high school, enter college and finish degrees at lower rates than their counterparts because their cultural heritage and very identity is missing from Alaska education systems, leaders in Alaska Native education say.

“They don’t want to be a part of education as much because it doesn’t validate them,” Anchorage School District board member Mary Marks said.

October 23, 2006

Language celebration tries to stem decline

Losing the Native tongueAccording to the society, there are 13 Oklahoma Indian languages that no longer have any fluent speakers in the state. While a handful--including Wyandotte, Seneca and Cayuga--are still spoken by people living in other areas and Canada, others-Delaware, Kaw, Tonkawa and Modoc-are effectively dead.

Those facts scare people like Grounds and Alice Anderton, a linguist and former Comanche language instructor who serves as the society’s executive director. Anderton has her own theories as to why languages once used by state Indian tribes are now disappearing at an alarming rate. Anderton said tribes are “very assimilated here culturally. There are many tribes living in a small space and you have situations where someone speaks Cherokee and they are talking with someone else that speaks another [Indian] language. They don’t speak each other’s language so they communicate in English.”

In addition to funding language teaching programs and stressing the importance of cultural preservation, Anderton has other ideas for stemming the tide. One notion, she says, is for a tribe hosting a powwow or other cultural celebration to use the occasion as a chance to speak in their language, making the event more specific to that tribe and highlighting their language in the process.

October 07, 2006

Two-year language class

Oneidas' Language of LoveHeath Hill's full-time job for the next two years is learning an ancient language.

Hill is one of a dozen Oneida Indians who meet five days a week in a bright, high-ceilinged classroom to learn their people's native tongue.

October 05, 2006

Language immersion village

Lakota Circle Village to use home schooling model for language teachingA project of the Lakota Language Consortium, a nonprofit that promotes language preservation, the village will be a Lakota immersion school on the Pine Ridge Reservation for children ages 5-12, set to open in Oglala in the fall of 2007.

“On this reservation there is no program that is successfully creating fluent speakers,” said Leonard Little Finger, co-founder of LLC and vice chairman of its board of directors. “The only way it's going to happen is if it's community-based, community-assisted, and [we] find a way to be able to give that child as they progress in life the same kind of recognition they would get in a different school.”

October 03, 2006

October 01, 2006

Introducing Turquoise Tales

See the initial version of our website for Turquoise Tales: a nonprofit dedicated to doing comic books for tribes.

September 25, 2006

Native kids tackle media

Learning to tell stories

Native teens gain media experience in after-school programMaybe you've seen them out there with note pads, microphones and cameras, talking to officials, to everyday people, to those who live on the streets. They're kids, and they're asking lots of questions. They want to know why things are the way they are, what needs to change and what it all means.

They're members of MEDIAK, an after-school media program for Native teens, and they're taking on tough topics--depression, suicide, rape, abuse. Why, they want to know, do Native American teens drop out of school at twice the national average? What is life like when you're pregnant and alone? How does being in a drunken-driving accident that kills a friend alter a person's life?

September 17, 2006

Getting ready for Thanksgiving

Native Americans:  Lesson PlansWith Thanksgiving approaching, teachers across the country are getting ready to teach children about Native Americans. Unfortunately, far too often, November and Thanksgiving (and Columbus Day) are the only times of the year that Native peoples make an appearance in the curriculum. That is not "best practice!" I urge teachers to teach about American Indians throughout the year. Here's one book to help you do that.

A terrific resource for early childhood teachers is Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms, by Guy W. Jones and Sally Moomaw.

Blog covers kids' lit

American Indians in Children's Literature

Critical discussion of children's books that contain images and content about American Indians.

September 11, 2006

Big money for Native book

Check out another posting in Newspaper Rock about an author who may have part of his novel translated into Cherokee.

September 03, 2006

September 01, 2006

Salish and Kootenai keyboards

Tribal languages, at your fingertipsStudents across the reservation will have the languages of the Salish and Kootenai tribes right at their finger tips.

Modified keyboards featuring unique characters will soon be available in area schools and will enable students to type in traditional Salish and Kootenai languages--the result of hard work by a former SKC technology director.

August 30, 2006

The critical language issue

State's tribes devote resources to preserving their languages"I think the language issue is the most critical in Indian Country," Grounds said. "We need to realize the other problems we have in tribes will be there in 10 years; our languages won't be."

According to the Intertribal Wordpath Society, only 27 of Oklahoma's 38 tribes have language speakers left. Some tribes, such as the Ottawa, Otoe, and Delaware, have an estimated speaker count of less than five each, the society says.

Grounds said those who are attempting to save a tribal language, especially in smaller tribes, face two critical hurdles--financial and cultural resources.

"Sometimes, we go to language preservation seminars and we cannot relate to them on the same page, because there are such big differences in what they can do and what we can realistically do," he said.

A successful gaming operation can bolster a tribe's language efforts. The Cherokee Nation allocated $1.4 million to its language revitalization program in fiscal year 2005 and increased that amount to $2.5 million in fiscal year 2006, officials said.

August 28, 2006

Language immersion = solution

Endangered languages of our ancestors can flourish againIf we continue to ignore these truths, this loss will come to pass just as certainly as the sun continues to rise and set in the sky. Yet, just as an eclipse shows us that sometimes the inevitable patterns of nature can be altered, so do we have the ability to change our future when it comes to saving our languages. But we cannot wait.

Fortunately, we are blessed to have the solution to language recovery in our hands. Offered to us by our indigenous brothers and sisters from around the globe, the language-immersion education programs developed by the Maori of New Zealand and Native Hawaiians have shown us that we can reverse the rapid loss of our languages.

From them, we know that it is possible for our languages to flourish again.

Word games Indians play

Scrabbling SiouxThose who hope they can stop the Dakota Sioux language from dying have hit on the perfect word: Scrabble.

A special Scrabble tournament in the language made its debut Friday, pitting teams from Sioux reservation schools in North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba.

August 26, 2006

Computer gizmo to the rescue

Handheld 'Phraselator' helps preserve North American native languagesWhite Eagle, a Ponca tribal citizen and Henry Lieb, 80, are two of the few people who speak the Ponca language. The Ponca Tribe has only about two dozen fluent speakers among its 3,000 tribal members, said Dan Jones, tribal chairman.

With the help of the Phraselator P2, a handheld device capable of recording and playing back thousands of phrases, words, songs and stories, White Eagle and Lieb recorded their native language Wednesday.

August 25, 2006

A real Native language program

Microsoft Programs Use Andean LanguageEvo Morales has a new ally in his quest to promote Indian languages--U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp.--which is teaming up with the Bolivian president for the local debut of Windows and Office software in the Andean tongue of Quechua.

"The translation of these technologies into Quechua helps to re-value the language so that it will not be lost over time," Javier Medrano, spokesman for Microsoft's Bolivia operations, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

August 21, 2006

Poverty reduces vocabulary

'We're playing a catch-up game'The volume of words spoken in households each week is tied closely to family income, said Elementary School Principal Charles Cook. The disparity in word count between poor families and wealthy families is staggering.

"Extrapolate the difference over a few years, and that's millions of words," Knutson said. "We're playing a catch-up game."

August 19, 2006

The power of words

See what novelist and critic David Treuer (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) has to say about how words create reality over in Newspaper Rock.

August 18, 2006

Tulalip language camp

Kids find the wordsThis week, about 50 young tribal members are attending Lushootseed Language Camp.

They are learning with game show-style quizzes, with computer programs developed by the Tulalip Tribes, and by practicing a play that uses English and Lushootseed phrases. They will perform the play this morning at the Tulalip Amphitheatre.

Tania Willard, comics creator

See Tania Willard's comments about using comics to tell traditional Native stories over in Newspaper Rock.

August 17, 2006

Learning via comics

Better Education Through Comic BooksTo finally get to the point, I believe I owe most of my early education to comics, and argue that they should become a staple of classroom learning.

Most people are visual learners, meaning they associate specific pieces of information with a particular image. Really, comic books are simply an extension of A-B-C picture books (A is for Apple, B is for Bear, C is for Calliope, etc.). Comics simply provide more information as it corresponds to provided text. For instance, when Donald Duck says “I'm gonna whip your tail feathers off” and you see a picture of Donald grimacing, rolling up his sleeve and holding a tree branch, you have a pretty good idea as to his intentions.

Indian guides for educators

American Indian Issues:  An Introductory and Curricular Guide for Educators

August 09, 2006

Ojibwa kids love learning

Indian kids yearn to learn

Books open up a world of imagination for children on reserves and can lift them from a life of poverty and despair Even the death of a young woman couldn't keep youngsters from their summer literacy program, writes Louise BrownIn isolated northern reserves, where many families struggle with poverty and unemployment, children speak the Oji-Cree dialect at home and often pick up English from satellite TV until they begin learning their ABCs in Grade 1.

So weaving literacy into summer fun can give an academic boost, says Bartleman, who has raised more than $4 million from both government and private donors to run 35 literacy camps as well as a free book club for students across northern reserves that will continue after his term ends next spring.

"It's not the panacea, but we're doing something, with resources from the communities themselves," Bartleman says during a visit to camps in Wunnumin Lake and nearby Summer Beaver. "If you give kids hands-on attention and introduce them to the world of imagination through books, you give them something that can overcome poverty and despair," says Bartleman, whose mother is Ojibwa.

Princesses, no; women, yes

Promoting Diversity in the Classroom and School Library through Social ActionOverview

Through an exploration of stereotypes in children's picture books such as books from Disney's Princess Collection, students identify the limited view established in these fictional worlds. Next, students compare these stereotyped representations to more diverse portrayals in matching texts, such as The Paper Bag Princess or Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. Finally, students use their findings to promote diversity by creating paired books or text sets that match stereotypical portrayals with balanced and diverse texts. Students create bookmarks that encourage readers to question the assumptions of stereotyped books and to seek out matching, balanced texts.

From Theory to Practice

Beverly Busching and Betty Ann Slesinger explain that literature is a "repository of cultural values"; thus, by reading widely, students are able to tap that repository and become more conscious of their own culture and that of others. Busching and Slesinger continue, "Students need to see their own lives interpreted and validated in the books they read, and they also need to see the wide panoply of humanity, not just to watch these characters enact their lives, but also to see into their lives. Through books, students can develop strong bonds with diverse individuals they would be unlikely to meet in their actual lives, or could never know well" (146-47).

Teens tell their tales

See Tribal Teens Use Film to Tell the Stories of Who They Are over in Newspaper Rock for an inspirational article.

August 08, 2006

Plays confront language loss

Forum Theatre:  Reclaiming Our Aboriginal LanguagesUBC Aboriginal Languages and Literacy Institute (ALLI 2006) and Headlines Theatre are seeking 20 Aboriginal people to participate in a unique process where they will work with theatrical games and exercises to bring out the core stories of their struggles with the loss of their traditional Aboriginal languages, and the challenges of reclamation and revitalization of their linguistic heritage.

What is Forum Theatre? Forum Theatre is a unique type of participatory theatre. The play that develops out of the workshop is usually quite short--perhaps 5 or 10 minutes in duration. It is run once, all the way through, so the audience can see the situation and the problems presented. The play builds to a crisis and stops there, offering no solutions. The play is then run again, with audience members able to "freeze" the action at any point where they see a character struggling with a problem. An audience member yells "stop!", comes into the playing area, replaces the character s/he sees in a moment of struggle, and tries out his/her idea.

Fund Native languages!

Indian languages should be preservedFrom the public resources spent on museums, historical sites and school curriculum to the care with which a great-grandmother passes down a treasured family Bible, we feel a link to our past.

A federal initiative aimed at preserving American Indian languages marks another worthwhile investment in our heritage.

The program that legislation would set up would cost in the neighborhood of $8 million, Ryan Wilson, president of the National Indian Education Association, said in a recent story by Zach Franz, of the Tribune.

The money would fund grants for establishment of immersion schools, where Indian students would start learning Native languages at an early age, when children’s brains are most receptive to language training.

August 06, 2006

Tribe gains scribes

Native American students expand their scribal skillsA new writing immersion program is giving a dozen teenage visitors from a Southern California Indian tribe a crash course on finding their inner muse—and using it to beef up their college application essays.

The pilot program brought six boys and six girls to the University of California, Berkeley for a week-long visit to museums, bookstores and even a local publishing house where students could learn about the craft of writing and find inspiration for a series of writing projects that encourage free expression.
Comment:  Not a way to preserve Native languages, but a way to get Native kids involved.