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.

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