January 26, 2008

Year of the Ho-Chunk language

Keep the language aliveAfter touting language preservation as part of his platform, recently-elected Ho-Chunk President Wilfrid Cleveland has proclaimed 2008 the year of the Ho-Chunk language.

Cleveland's staff are taking daily classes, and Nation officials are encouraging tribe members to speak Ho-Chunk more in their personal lives and at work.

Mann said an effort to preserve the language on CD is also under way, and an interactive Web site lets tribe members learn from home. They also can order lesson materials online.

January 20, 2008

More on the last Wichita speaker

Last fluent speaker of Wichita tribal language preserves what's leftTerri, the tribe's enrollment clerk, understands. She has watched the number of full-blooded Wichita members--including the Waco, Tawakoni and Keechi bands--fall to just 41 today after once numbering tens of thousands scattered in villages from Central and North Texas to Kansas.

They've tried language classes to teach adults how to say a little, and still hold classes for kids, but the language is too hard and resources too spare to ever resurrect it.

When Doris is gone, the silence will be larger than one woman.

"Any chance of us ever being fluent in it again ... that dies," Terri says.

Then later: "We lose our identity."

January 15, 2008

Public school offers Odawa language

Odawa language course makes its way into Harbor Springs’ curriculumA groundbreaking new course is being offered at Harbor Springs High School—Anishinaabemowin, the native language of Odawa Indians.

The class, which is a collaboration between the Little Traverse Bay Bands (LTBB) of Odawa Indians and Harbor Springs Public Schools, began in September 2007—the beginning of the current school year.

According to officials from the Michigan Department of Education, no other public school system in the state is currently offering a “Native American” language course for credit toward graduation.

January 14, 2008

Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Nez Perce

Language of the elders

Preserving the sounds and identity of their American Indian cultureBeginning in 1996, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation adopted an ambitious language program to preserve the old tongues from becoming extinct.

Each weekday, a small selection of tribal elders representing all three languages gathers informally to socialize and help one another re-extract the old words and phrases from their memories. While the group started with about nine elders, two have since died.

With the help of descriptive linguist Noel Rude, Ph.D., the tribes have begun to amass a collection of recorded and phonetically written texts of the native dialects, transcribed interviews with the present tribal elders. From those, Rude has continued to expand the dictionaries and figure out the language grammars.

While that work continues, the tribes have begun to build curriculum to teach the languages, now foreign, to the newest generation.

January 12, 2008

Hymns in Native languages

A place to call home

Indigenous church raising funds to finish siteThe tune is familiar, but the words are different.

Thirty members of the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church are singing “Amazing Grace,” using a hymn book that has the words in Kiowa.

The congregation just got done singing hymns in Cherokee and Creek—to represent the tribes of those who are filling the pews this Sunday.

“Native Americans,” member John Judd says, “like to worship with other Native Americans.”

January 08, 2008

Last three Oneida speakers

Tribe's matriarchs speak to nation's past

3 Oneida elders know the language of whispers and are helping to keep it from dying outHinton is one of three remaining elders who speak this vivid tongue, surviving matriarchs from the last generation to communicate in Oneida. Most members of the Wisconsin tribe today know basic vocabulary but can't use it in conversations.

In a final push to revive their language, the Oneida people are using a federal grant to put digital recordings of the elders online and to provide full-time jobs for eight people to learn to speak the language.

January 06, 2008

Software for learning Navajo

Saving a language, preserving a cultureManavi is part of a team of linguists, editors and native speakers launching a year-long project to develop the first Navajo language learning system accessible to anyone with a computer.

The software will be owned by the Cornville, Ariz.—based organization Navajo Language Renaissance, and will be used to supplement Navajo language classes on and off the reservation. It will not be part of Rosetta Stone's commercial product line.