March 30, 2009

Dakotah children's books and Scrabble

AAIA program saving endangered Native languages with translated children’s booksWhen elder Orsen Bernard sang to children in the Dakotah language, DeCoteau saw the need for teaching materials in Dakotah. “We realized that no matter how much you spoke in the language, everything else was in English. Every book, every song, every movie was in English. So we started creating materials to view in the language programs and schools.”

Although the program is in its infancy, in just a few years time, DeCoteau’s efforts have led to the creation of more than 60 children’s books, videos and CD’s in the Dakotah language. The program also created a Dakotah language Scrabble game, a rap CD, computer applications and a theatrical play.

DeCoteau also noted that other tribes wanting Scrabble in their Native languages could have them created. “We talked with the people at Hasbro and they said they would be happy to work with the AAIA to create them.”

Her unique and contemporary techniques for teaching Native languages are creating such positive results that other tribes are beginning to follow suit. She said the process is simple. “It’s all on Microsoft Publisher, we send the tribe the disc, they just delete the Dakotah language, add theirs and then print it out.”

March 11, 2009

Flashcards, classes, and audiotapes

Menominee tribe makes effort to keep language aliveUsing a booklet of flashcards held up by their teacher, the 2-year-olds pointed and repeated the words kuapenakaehsaeh (cup), aemeskwan (spoon) and paeces kahekan (fork). At home they've been known to ask their families for a snack using the Menominee words for crackers and fruit instead of English.And:The average age of the few dozen remaining native speakers is in the mid-70s, and some of the elders who speak the language are in ill health. However, the tribe has 10 trained Menominee language instructors who teach in the schools and College of Menominee Nation. The language is taught in day care and kindergarten through middle school. At the high school, it's a popular elective taken by three-quarters of the students.And:The [language and culture] commission trains substitute language teachers, works on language curriculum and helps with a University of Wisconsin-Madison project compiling a beginner's dictionary of the Menominee language. The tribe has also converted hundreds of hours of audiotapes of elders speaking stories, which were recorded decades ago, into digital versions that can be downloaded on iPods and laptops.

March 10, 2009

Film about Inupiaq language

Films tells Inupiaq history[Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson's] second film, "The Voice of Our Spirit," presents viewers with individuals, young and old, who struggle with the loss of language in their own personal way.

"The film chronicles a history that spans 150 years," said Edwardson during a video call from her current home in Melbourne, Australia. "It starts with the epidemics, then the missionaries and the boarding school. It provides a historical understanding of how it happened that no one speaks the language."
And:Until now, the School District never taught Inupiaq language and culture in a systematic way, according to Harcharek, most likely because no materials existed. That is already changing thanks to programs and a curriculum developed by Harcharek and fellow educators. Edwardson's films are a big part of the process.

An Anchorage anthropologist, historian and curriculum developer, Patricia Partnow, is currently working with the films to develop learning guides that will accompany them in classes and place them in context with the history the students are taught.

March 03, 2009

ILI wins Tech Savvy Award

The Indigenous Language Institute Wins National Verizon Tech Savvy AwardThe Indigenous Language Institute's Intergenerational workshop series is the national winner of the Third Annual Verizon Tech Savvy Awards.

Through the workshop, entitled Ancient Voices, Modern Tools: Native Languages and Technology, the institute instructs families, students and teachers on how to use technology to develop print and audio books to teach Native American languages at school and home. The institute, which is based in Santa Fe., N.M., and serves 2,000 Native Americans annually, will receive a $25,000 grant to continue and expand its program.