August 30, 2007

Nature walks promote Lushootseed

Tribal children meet their history

Stillaguamish youth explore a forest's bountyJohn Yeager is just 9 years old, but he can recite the names of a host of forest animals in Lushootseed, the ancient language of his Stillaguamish tribal ancestors.

"It helps to learn about our culture, and how we lived," Yeager said as he walked Tuesday along a road nestled deep in the forest near Arlington. "I want to learn as much Lushootseed as I can so I can pass it along to other people."

August 29, 2007

Lakota radio encourages language

Radio Station Provides Vital Link for People on Indian ReservationPart of each day's broadcast is done in the Lakota language, which is still widely spoken by older people and is being taught to school children. The language was in danger of dying because of government efforts to force American Indians to speak English in decades past.

Tom Casey says using Lakota on the station sends a powerful cultural message. "When the radio station first went on the air, February 25th, 1983, the first DJ [disc jockey] on the air spoke in both Lakota and English and that was really powerful."

August 28, 2007

Dena'ina website goes live

Web helping tribe to save language

Site aims to keep Dena'ina culture from extinctionFor more than two years, Boraas and his colleague Michael Christian have taken pictures, navigated through HTML and digitized old audio recordings of Native writer Peter Kalifornsky in order to present Dena'ina vocabulary, grammar, stories and place names in an interactive Web site that went live last month.

This project is the latest in the Kenaitze Indian Tribe's endeavor to revitalize their Native language. Cultural Director Alexandra "Sasha" Lindgren, a tribal elder with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, said a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans allowed the tribe to buy Boraas out of his teaching contract with KPC, enabling him to devote more time to the Web site.

August 19, 2007

Chukchansis use Phraselator

Speak now...or forever hold your peace

Rare Chukchansi speakers gather to record and preserve their languageA few Native Americans who still speak the ancient Chukchansi language are preserving tribal words and songs with state-of-the-art electronic translators inspired by military technology.

Jane Wyatt, 62, of Coarsegold, and her sister, Holly, 65, were among six tribal members who gathered Friday across the street from the Picayune Rancheria's busy Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold to try out a newly acquired "Phraselator."

August 14, 2007

Chilean teen learns dead tongue

Young Chilean keeps nearly extinct languages aliveYanten is speaking Selk'nam, the language of an extinct aboriginal group that lived in the Tierra del Fuego islands off southern Chile and Argentina. They were among the last native communities in South America to be settled, in the late 19th century.

When the Spaniards arrived in Chile, 11 languages were in widespread use: Quechua, Aymara, Rapanui, Chango, Kunza, Diaguita, Mapudungun, Chono, Kawesqar, Yagan and Selk'nam. Today, only the first three remain.

Experts now consider Yanten to be the only living speaker of a language that died with the last ethnic Selk'nam in the 1970s.

His obsession began at age 8, when he wrote an elementary school project on Chile's native groups. "It frustrated me that no one really saw the magnitude of the extinction of an entire race in the south," he said. "Now you'll only find a couple of indigenous faces; it's really sad."

But learning a language when there is no one to speak it with is no small task. Yanten used dictionaries and audiocassettes of interviews and shamanic chants, recorded by Jesuit missionaries.

August 09, 2007

Campaigning to save Maliseet

N.B. woman recording elders speaking Maliseet for posterityA New Brunswick woman has launched an online campaign to save a dying native language.

Imelda Perley says her new project hopes to capture the voices of about 100 people in New Brunswick, most of them elders, who speak Maliseet as their first language.

August 07, 2007

High school adds Onondaga class

LaFayette to teach Onondaga languageStarting in September, LaFayette schools will for the first time teach the Onondaga's native language--Ongwehonwekha--in ninth grade, a critical step in the Onondaga Nation's effort to save its native language from extinction.

LaFayette High School will be one of a handful of high schools in the state to offer a Native American language class.

"This is a giant step forward for the kids who can continue learning the language, which helps keep it alive," said Danielle Rourke, LaFayette High School's Native American liaison who works with Onondaga Nation School eighth-graders transitioning to the high school. "You teach it to them when they're young and keep working on it because the more you use it, the more it's going to stay around."

Proud students of Keresan

Acoma kids show off language skillsThe eight students, along with help from their instructors, showed off their acting talents too as they performed a skit based on the Acoma Emergence Story.

William Estevan, one of the instructors of the project, talked about the unique program that has tribes from all across the country seeking Acoma's help in reestablishing their own efforts to save their languages.

“The students studied oral language which included the Acoma emergence story, how the people came to their present state. Every day, excluding feast days, the students were involved with the Acoma Keres language and the oral story telling of the history of Acoma,” Estevan said.

August 06, 2007

Only rancher can save Mandan

Rancher, linguist working to preserve native languageAn effort to save the Mandan language may rest on the shoulders of a 75-year-old horse rancher.

Experts believe Edwin Benson is the only person living who speaks fluent Mandan, the language of the American Indian tribe that became the host of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during the explorers' winter encampment in North Dakota more than 200 years ago.

For past three summers, in six-hour shifts, Benson and California linguist Sara Trechter have camped out in a small office so he can speak into a microphone while Trechter takes notes. The two recently finished transcribing seven Mandan folk stories.

August 02, 2007

Investing in Ojibwe teachers

College receives grant for Ojibwe language and culture programThe College of St. Scholastica in Duluth has recently received a new five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support its Ojibwe Language and Culture Education (OLCE) program.

In announcing the grant earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar called the program a “good investment,” saying that it helps ensure “that our teachers are ready for the challenges in today’s classrooms.”

The $1.19 million grant is administered by the Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. It will support 10 students who are interested in teaching and working in the American Indian community. Students will major in elementary or secondary education and in Ojibwe language and culture education. The dual-major program takes five years to complete. The grant will provide students with tuition support as well as a monthly living stipend.

August 01, 2007

Ojibwe language camp

Language camp keeps Ojibwe culture aliveCamp coordinator Andy Gokee, a former Red Cliff resident who now handles outreach for the UWSP Native American Center, explained why both Ojibwe language lessons and traditional hands-on skills are taught at the camp.

It just doesn't work to teach the Ojibwe language in a sterile classroom, he said.

"Language and the culture--you can't separate the two; you need both," Gokee said. "One kind of interprets another; the language gives you insight into how the Indian mind perceives things."