December 24, 2010

Cherokee on the iPhone

Cherokee, Apple partner to put language on iPhones

By Murray EvansNine-year-old Lauren Hummingbird wants a cell phone for Christmas—and not just any old phone, but an iPhone. Such a request normally would be met with skepticism by her father, Cherokee Nation employee Jamie Hummingbird.

He could dismiss the obvious reasons a kid might want an iPhone, except for this—he's a proud Cherokee and buying his daughter the phone just might help keep the tribe's language alive.

Nearly two centuries after a blacksmith named Sequoyah converted Cherokee into its own unique written form, the tribe has worked with Apple to develop Cherokee language software for the iPhone, iPod and—soon—the iPad. Computers used by students—including Lauren—at the tribe's language immersion school already allow them to type using Cherokee characters.

The goal, Cherokee Chief Chad Smith said, is to spread the use of the language among tech-savvy children in the digital age. Smith has been known to text students at the school using Cherokee, and teachers do the same, allowing students to continue using the language after school hours.

December 20, 2010

Apple apps for British Columbia's languages

Aboriginal apps give old languages modern edge

By Judith LavoieSome of British Columbia's ancient languages are getting an ultra-modern boost in the hopes that cool technology will appeal to young aboriginal people.

New language apps for Apple's iPod, iPad and iPhone devices have been developed for two native languages in the province: Sencoten, spoken on southern Vancouver Island; and Halq'emeylem, spoken in the Fraser Valley.

Six more communities are using archives of recorded words and phrases to build mobile audio dictionaries with funding help from the province.

"Young people today are distracted by a lot of technology. They want to text, be on the web and play games," says Peter Brand, co-ordinator of FirstVoices, which helped develop the apps. "And so we knew that, if we had any hope of keeping the language in front of them, it had to be presented in these ways."

December 05, 2010

3rd annual Lakota language summit

Native Sun News:  Summit keeps Native languages on frontburner

By Evelyn BroecherThe non-profit organization, Tusweca Tiospaye, recognized that the language of the Great Sioux Nation is nearing extinction and began their annual language summit in 2007. There are now K-12 language programs implemented in schools and adult classes will be offered in the near future.

In November thousands of people from 40 Sioux bands and one New Zealander attended the three-day Third Annual Language Summit at the Ramkota Hotel. Agenda material indicated the last major gathering of the Seven Council Fires was over 130 years ago which ended with the death of George Armstrong Custer.

November 28, 2010

National Geographic's Enduring Voices Project

Enduring Voices ProjectLosing Our World's Languages

Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain.

National Geographic's Enduring Voices Project (conducted in collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages) strives to preserve endangered languages by identifying language hotspots—the places on our planet with the most unique, poorly understood, or threatened indigenous languages—and documenting the languages and cultures within them.

Why Is It Important?

Language defines a culture, through the people who speak it and what it allows speakers to say. Words that describe a particular cultural practice or idea may not translate precisely into another language. Many endangered languages have rich oral cultures with stories, songs, and histories passed on to younger generations, but no written forms. With the extinction of a language, an entire culture is lost.

Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many still undocumented by science. Studying indigenous languages therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts.

Studying various languages also increases our understanding of how humans communicate and store knowledge. Every time a language dies, we lose part of the picture of what our brains can do.

November 26, 2010

Defending a thesis in Mi'gmaw

PhD student defends thesis in Mi'gmaw language, a York first

By Sandra McLeanWhile researching the historical rights of his First Nation’s community of Listuguj in the Gespe’gewa’gig district of the Mi’gmaw on the southwest shore of the Gaspé peninsula for his doctoral thesis, York PhD candidate Alfred Metallic came to believe there was something missing in what he was doing--an integral piece of a larger picture.

Not much had been written about that part of the Gaspé Peninsula and northern New Brunswick, the seventh district of the Mi’gmaw Grand Council, until Metallic turned his eye to it, but that didn’t explain the feeling he had.

It wasn’t until after he had written his comprehensive exams and was back in his community that he realized what was missing was the Mi’gmaw language--its connection to the spirit of the people, their ways of life and the land--and the way stories are presented back to the people, his people. Metallic’s dissertation was his story, and he needed to tell it using the oral traditions of his people in the Mi’gmaw language of his community and district, to share the knowledge and learning he’d accumulated, but also to help preserve his native language, which is at risk of disappearing.

“Our language, it’s how we maintain our relations and how we understand where we come from. It gives you access to your place in the world,” says Metallic. In the Mi’gmaw language, the action comes first, then the person. It’s the opposite with the English language.
Below:  "Alfred Metallic, centre, defending his dissertation."

November 25, 2010

Teaching Lakota as a second language

Lakota LLEAPs to the leading edge of second-language educationThe revival of the Lakota language opens a new chapter in 2011, as two institutions of higher learning in the Great Plains initiate undergraduate degree majors for teachers of Lakota as a second language--making Lakota the first Native American language to achieve this kind of professional recognition.

Beginning in January 2011, the University of South Dakota School of Education in Vermillion, S.D. and the Sitting Bull College Education Department, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in Fort Yates, N.D. will each offer a two-year Lakota Language Teaching and Learning curriculum, as a degree major for a Bachelor of Arts in Education at USD or Bachelor of Science in Education at SBC.

This two-year curriculum will be taught, administered, and evaluated over the four-year grant period by LLEAP, the Lakota Language Education Action Program, developed by the Lakota Language Consortium to coordinate this effort by USD and SBC. This coordinated program systematically addresses the problem of how to generate high-quality teachers of an important Native American language--teachers who have deepened their own fluency in the language through college-level study, and who understand how a second language is taught and learned.
Lakota language gets a boost

Grant aims to help develop teachers, cultivate students

By Steve Young
Officials at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion and Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates see those possibilities, too. That's why they are developing bachelor's-degree programs to train teachers of Lakota as a second language.

The two schools have been awarded a four-year, $2.4 million grant by the Department of Education to institute the programs beginning next year and, within the initial four years, to educate 30 new Lakota language teachers.

The grant will pay for one instructor at each school--a Lakota linguistics expert for USD and, at Sitting Bull, an instructor specializing in second language methodology. The schools will be able to share the instructors, either through distance learning or possibly some travel, officials say.

The grant also will allow 16 Native American students at USD and 14 at Sitting Bull College to receive $2,000 a month for two years to pay their tuition, fees and living expenses.

November 24, 2010

Language whipped out of Indians

In Language Whipped Out of Indians, Melvin Martin explains how boarding schools literally did just that. No wonder Indians have suffered such a terrible loss of language.

November 16, 2010

Basket making in Abenaki

Language keepers

By Donna Laurent Caruso“L8dwaw8gan wji Abaznodakaw8gan” (The Language of Basket Making) is a newly available book (November 2010, Bowman Books, New York) by Jesse Bruchac with Elie Joubert and Jeanne Brink that presents a unique way to continue the revitalization of the Abenaki language.

Bruchac writes in the preface that this is “the first attempt at creating a ‘how-to’ manual within the Abenaki language.” Western Abenaki is translated into colloquial English in a series of steps with clear black and white photographs showing the process–and thus revealing the culture–of wood splint ash basket making in the Wabanaki culture.

November 14, 2010

Ktunaxa for Tots

New curriculum helps to promote Ktunaxa languageThe Ktunaxa for Tots curriculum is a new Ktunaxa language program designed by Paqmi Nuqyuk Aboriginal Early Years employee, Chelsea Nicholas. The program developed by Nicholas, in collaboration with the Little Badger's Learning Centre, was designed to help children under the age of six connect with their culture and language. It is at this age when children have the greatest capacity to learn something that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.And:Nicholas, a Ktunaxa Nation Member, has already seen the benefits in a very short period, with many children having already graduated from the eight session program. The curriculum covers topics such as body parts, colours, animals, numbers, seasons and basic expressions. Each session also includes a craft or activity that enhances the learning by making it fun.Below:  "Chelsea Nicholas, of Paqmi Nuqyuk Aboriginal Early Years, is holding a flash card, one of the many tools developed to support the Ktunaxa language."

November 10, 2010

Tomson Highway plays in Cree

Tomson Highway releases plays in CreeAward-winning Canadian playwright Tomson Highway is releasing two of his most famous works in his first language—Cree.

The Cree versions of the plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing were officially released at a launch party at the University of Ottawa Monday night. Highway, 58, said a publisher, Fitzhenry and Whiteside, approached him earlier this year and expressed its interest in releasing the plays—both of which have been performed in English since the 1980s—in Cree.

Highway, who was born near Maria Lake, Man., said when he writes, the characters speak in Cree in his head but the words often come out in English or French.

"So actually the Cree versions that are coming out tonight are actually the original versions. As it turns out, the original ones that came out 20 years ago were the translation," Highway said.
Below:  "Tomson Highway says he hopes new Cree translations of his work will be taught in Cree language classes across the country." (CBC)

October 16, 2010

Guide to Indian-language manuscripts

American Indian-language manuscripts guide available onlineA new guide to historical manuscripts in American Indian languages went online this week at Turning Points in Wisconsin History. It is the fruit of a yearlong partnership between the University of Wisconsin and the Society’s Library and Archives, which have worked successfully together for more than a century to collect, preserve and share Wisconsin history.

October 12, 2010

Learning Latin American languages

Trying out indigenous languages

At UCLA and other schools, some students are forgoing French, Spanish and Chinese to try indigenous Latin American languages such as Zapotec, Mixtec and Quechua. Some leap in for the adventure. Others want to get closer to their roots.

By Esmeralda Bermudez
Still, at UCLA and a few other universities, some are pushing aside French, Spanish and Chinese to try rarely offered indigenous Latin American languages such as Zapotec, Mixtec, Aymara and Quechua.

Some leap in for the adventure. Others want to get closer to their roots. History and anthropology students sometimes sign up for the sake of research. And then there are the doctors, social workers and teachers who hope to put what they learn to immediate practical use.

"Learning standard languages doesn't help you understand the needs of regional areas," said Ramona Perez, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University. "But indigenous languages show you all the diversity we have."

October 10, 2010

Cherokee on the iPhone keyboard

Cherokee now included on iPhone keyboard

By Robert Evatt Though the fifth-grade class at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School in Tahlequah use computers throughout the school day, their eyes light up when education services staff let them borrow iPhones.

Within seconds they cluster around the gadgets, happily tapping out messages like countless other cell-phone users.

But unlike most, their texts aren't in English--they're in Cherokee.

And they aren't using specially modified iPhones. Every one of the estimated 100 million global iPhone users running iOS 4.1, the latest version of the smart phone's software released last month, already have support for the distinct Cherokee language within their device.
Below:  "Sean Sikora (left), Cambria Bird, Alayna Harkreader, Lauren Hummingbird (seated) and Maggie Sourjohn laugh while working on a Macbook at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School." (Mike Simons/Tulsa World)

October 08, 2010

Documentary on New England languages

Film delves into Indian language, culture in Maine Rockland-based documentary filmmaker Ben Levine will be at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick on Tuesday to show and talk about his film "Language of America: An Indian Story."

Filmed over a period of six years in native communities throughout New England, the film shows how language is not only a tool for communication but a window into a culture that has existed in Maine for more than 9,000 years. The story follows members of three New England tribes--Passamaquoddy, Wampanoag and Narragansett--as they struggle to maintain their language.

September 23, 2010

Learning Choctaw via teleconferencing

Arkoma Schools Use Long-Distance Language Learning

By Jared BroylesOklahoma students are getting a foreign language credit while helping to preserve a native tongue and it's being done using technology. "It's important to be versatile in your language," Deven, a student told 5NEWS.

High school students in Arkoma, Oklahoma are learning the Choctaw language. But they're doing it via the world wide web.
And:Last year Arkoma offered both Spanish and Choctaw via teleconference, but this year the interest in the Native American was so high they arranged two classes for nearly 30 students. Coach Johnson says the kids are interested in learning a language that reflects their heritage whether they are Native American or simply an Oklahoman.

August 25, 2010

Navajo version of Rosetta Stone

Navajo language software hits the market

By Alysa LandryRosetta Stone, creator of the renowned language learning software, on Tuesday released its Navajo version, the first large-scale language revitalization project for the dialect.

Navajo, traditionally an oral language, still is spoken by more than 100,000 people, making it the most common American Indian language north of Mexico.

Yet use and fluency among the younger generations is on a decline with about 50 percent of Navajo age 17 and younger unable to speak their native language at all, according to data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

The software is the result of thousands of hours of work and hundreds of volunteers who provided expertise, photos, audio recordings and cultural support to the project.
Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program Releases Navajo Language Software

Language-Learning Provider Helps Promote Native American Language Use among Younger GenerationsRosetta Stone Inc., a leading provider of technology-based language learning solutions, announced today the release of the Navajo-language version of Rosetta Stone(R) software for use by Navajo in language revitalization. Though Navajo is the most-spoken Native American language north of Mexico (still spoken by more than 100,000 people), its use and fluency among younger generations is in dramatic decline. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 50 percent of Navajo ages 17 and under were able to speak their native language at all in 2000. Rosetta Stone Navajo software will be available for use in Navajo Nation schools, homes and chapter houses in an effort to help reverse this decline.

"We're excited that the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program can play a role in encouraging younger generations to use the Navajo language," said Marion Bittinger, manager of the Endangered Language Program. "We're optimistic our work with indigenous groups will be a step toward reversing the tide of global language extinction."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Rosetta Stone Releases Chitimacha Language and Software for Learning Navajo.

August 24, 2010

Berenstain Bears cartoons in Lakota

Berenstain Bears help keep Lakota language beating

By Sarah ReineckeSoon, the popular Berenstain Bears cartoon characters will help bring the Lakota language to life in homes across the region.

Twenty episodes of the animated cartoon series will be translated, recorded and broadcast on South Dakota Public Television starting in the fall of next year, with all dialogue in Lakota.

It's the first time in the United States that any cartoon series has been translated to a Native American language and widely distributed, said Wilhelm Meya, executive director of Lakota Language Consortium, a nonprofit organization that partnered with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to co-produce the Lakota version of the series.

A DVD and teacher's guide also will be released next summer to be used in area schools.

August 20, 2010

15th year of Lushootseed camp

Camp bolsters reawakening of Lushootseed language

By Bill SheetsJones looked around the Kenny Moses Building on Tulalip Bay on Thursday and saw dozens of tribal children learning words and phrases in Lushootseed, the original language spoken by Salish tribes in the Puget Sound basin.

The children were split into groups at an annual camp in which they learn the language and culture through songs, drawing, painting, weaving, an old printing press and even a Nintendo DSi.

"I'm really proud of them doing that," Jones said. "It's just great."

The camp is in its 15th year. About 200 children ages 5 through 12 sign up for the camp each year, said Natosha Gobin, a language teacher for the tribes.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Lushootseed in Public Schools and Tulalip Language Camp.

Below:  "Stan Jones, a Tulalip tribal leader, recalls how kids were once punished for speaking Lushootseed. 'Soap in the mouth,' he said."

August 13, 2010

Linguist to spend year in Greenland

Scientist lives as Inuit for a year to save disappearing language

By Thair ShaikhA British anthropologist is setting out on a year-long stay with a small community in Greenland in an ambitious attempt to document its dying language and traditions.

Stephen Pax Leonard will live with the Inughuit in northwest Greenland, the world's most northernmost people, and record their conversations and storytelling traditions to try and preserve their language.

The Inughuit, who speak Inuktun, a "pure" Inuit dialect, are under increasing political and climatic pressure to move south, says Leonard.

"They have around 10 to 15 years left in their present location, then climate change and politics will force them to move south, and they will be assimilated into a different culture, into a broader community, and their way of life will be lost," Leonard said.

August 06, 2010

Indian sign language conference

First Indian sign language conference in 80 years will be held in August

By Pam HughesRepresentatives from seven tribes will convene on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation Aug. 12–15 for the first hand talkers’ conference held since 1930.

The conference is an important part of a National Science Foundation funded project led by Dr. Jeffrey Davis of the University of Tennessee, Dr. Melanie McKay-Cody (Chickamauga Cherokee/Choctaw) of William Woods University and James Woodenlegs (Northern Cheyenne) to document hand talkers from Northern Cheyenne, Assiniboine, Sioux, Crow, and several other tribes.

The mission is to preserve Indian Sign Language through the cooperation of sign language linguists with deaf and hearing members of the North American Indian signing communities through research, video recording and a dictionary.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indian Sign Language Endangered and Indian and American Sign Languages.

July 31, 2010

Eagle Books in Creek language

Taking control of the medium--and the message

Muscogee (Creek) Nation translates health books and videos to appeal to kids

By Stephanie Woodard
The books and videos were originally produced in English, said Isham, but then it was proposed that an exhibit of the illustrations travel from the CDC’s Global Health Odyssey Museum in Atlanta to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s museum. In figuring out how the set of artworks–called “Through the Eyes of the Eagle”–would fit into the focus of the Creek facility, the idea of tribal spin on the materials emerged, he said.

“Our museum focuses on Creek history and culture, so at first the books appeared to be outside our purview. But we got our medical team and diabetes program involved, along with the Mvskoke Language Institute, a language-preservation group, and we thought of translating them into Creek. People saw the potential, and enthusiasm grew.”

Today, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation project has translated one book into Creek and, using the CDC’s Atlanta studios, has transformed two of the animations into two formats–one with Creek language and English subtitles, the other with English language and Creek subtitles, said Isham. “Our elders saw the sense in this when we joined the visuals with the two languages. And our kids responded very well to the media and the message.”

The material wasn’t translated word-for-word, though, he said. “We added our worldview to make them ours.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Eagle Books Promote Healthiness.

July 27, 2010

Cherokee to meet foreign language requirement

Tribe hopes to fund Cherokee as foreign language class in public schools

By Giles MorrisThe Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is urging the state to formally license Cherokee language teachers, enabling Cherokee courses taught in public schools off the reservation to count toward a student’s foreign language requirement.

Earlier this month, tribal and school officials met with representatives from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to finalize the steps in the process.
And:The tribe’s language efforts include everything from street signs in Cherokee to language immersion programs for infants—as well as required Cherokee language classes for grades K-12 school on the reservation.

However, not all enrolled members of the tribe live in Cherokee and attend school on the reservation, so the tribe hopes to offer language courses in public schools in neighboring counties as well.

July 26, 2010

National Native language summit

Native voices heard at national language summit

By Rob CapricciosoNative languages are alive and well, and they need the federal government to help their voices flourish.

That was the message of a group of Indian educators who gathered for the National Native Language Revitalization Summit on Capitol Hill July 13-14 to make legislators and administrators aware of their concerns and desire for support.

July 15, 2010

NCLB impedes immersion schools

NCLB Seen Impeding Indigenous-Language Preservation

By Mary Ann ZehrNative American leaders pressed members of Congress and federal education officials this week to provide relief from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that they see as obstacles to running the language-immersion schools they need to keep their languages from disappearing.

As part of a two-day national summit here on revitalizing native languages, three founders of immersion schools that are teaching children Cherokee, Ojibwe, and Native Hawaiian contended that some No Child Left Behind provisions present huge hurdles for language-immersion programs or schools and conflict with schooling rights spelled out in another federal law, the Native American Languages Act. That 1990 law says it is U.S. policy to “encourage and support the use of Native American languages as a medium of instruction.”
What exactly is the problem?Since the immersion schools typically don’t introduce English until the 5th grade, their founders argued that it’s unfair that those schools can be penalized if their students don’t test well in English in the early grades. They added that the federal law—the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—makes it hard for them to expand their schools beyond the elementary grades because to do so they must hire teachers who are both fluent in an indigenous language and “highly qualified” to teach math, science, or another content area.

July 12, 2010

Ojibwe high-school classes

Teaching Ojibwe language beneficial to Duluth students

Ojibwe language, like all Native languages, has as its foundation the truths, values and spiritual ways of our people.

By Linda LeGarde Grover
I was one of many students who took Spanish from Senorita Rich during her years teaching at Denfeld. We learned to read and write a little Spanish, as well as speak. We listened to Rich’s always-interesting stories about her trips to Spanish-speaking countries, and she told us what she observed and tried of their customs and cultures. We made up Spanish dialogues about going to school, shopping, and visiting relatives. We sang popular songs that Rich loved, and we tasted her homemade banana bread. And we retained a surprising amount of Spanish language.

Just as we did, today’s students in Duluth public schools have the opportunity to take a variety of elective courses that enrich and expand their educational experience. Several years ago, Ojibwemowin, the language of the Native people of this part of North America, was added to the curriculum. This coming fall, Ojibwe Language, Culture and History I and II will be offered at the high school level. An introductory language immersion experience will be available at the Ojibwe Language Nest kindergarten, which is a cooperative effort between Duluth Public Schools and UMD.

July 06, 2010

Preserving Hopi through performing arts

Preserving the Hopi language through the performing arts

By the Hopi FoundationThe mission of Three Mesas Productions (3MP) is to provide a creative outlet for Hopi youth while preserving the Hopi language through the performing arts. Since its inception in December 2007, 3MP has performed shows throughout the Hopi Reservation and in Flagstaff. This month 3MP will be performing six shows from July 1-6 both on and off the Hopi Reservation.And:This summer, Fred is teaching a Beginning Voice and Drama class in conjunction with the Hopi Tutukaiki's summer program. This class teaches students to learn how to use their voice as an instrument to express emotion. Also taught are breathing exercises, basic theatre terms and stage direction.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Creek Students Perform Creek Plays.

June 28, 2010

Creek students perform Creek plays

Theater performs plays in the Creek Language

By Christina Good VoiceThe Okmulgee and Tulsa Creek Indian Community language classes, under the guidance of Jackson Barnett and Thunder Road Theater, have created two plays that were performed entirely in the Muscogee language June 20.

Okmulgee Creek language students Lillian Thomas, Pat Factor, Alfred Harley and Chalakee star in "Bocv, Hoktvlkogee," which is a comedy set in a Creek household when Grandma is away and Grandpa is in charge of making dinner for a visiting preacher.

"I enjoy being in this class," Chalakee said. "They said you play this part and I said, 'ok, I'll try.' I think I'm ready. I enjoy the classes too"

The other play is performed by the Tulsa Creek Indian Community language class.

"Nettv Momen Nere" is based on a traditional story written down by Jackson Barnett. This story explains how the animals met together to decide which should be longer, day or night. Based on Barnett's story, students in the Tulsa Creek Indian Community language class tried to imagine what the animals in this story might have said and done as they held their fateful meeting. Actors in the play are Jane Bardis, Margo Smith, Tallulah Smith and Adam Recvlohe.

June 24, 2010

Big demand for Ojibwe language camp

Ojibwe language camp to feature more native speakers

Attendance was high last year at the first Ojibwe language immersion camp on the Fond du Lac Reserva­tion.

By Jana Hollingsworth
Attendance was high last year at the first Ojibwe language immersion camp on the Fond du Lac Reserva­tion.

This year, organizers doubled the fluent speakers to prepare for what they expect to be 300 people at the four-day event.

“We discovered that this is what people really want to do,” said organizer Jim North­rop. “There is a great need for the Anishinaabe people to regain their language.”

June 14, 2010

Research shows Native language benefits

Study:  Inuit language schooling brings long-term benefits

With good base in Inuttitut, students do better

By Sarah Rogers
Long-term studies of school children in Nunavik show that students learn best and benefit from higher self-esteem when taught in their mother tongue.

The findings mean Inuit students with a good base in Inuttitut tend to do better in their studies, says McGill psychology professor Don Taylor.

According to Taylor’s research, Inuit kindergarten students score higher than their American counterparts on spatial intelligence tests.

Taylor also found that Inuit kindergarten students taught in Inuttitut almost doubled their personal self-esteem by the end of the year, compared to a slight drop if they were educated in English or French.
Below:  "Inuttitut instruction boosts skills and self-esteem, says McGill researcher Don Taylor, who recently visited Kangiqsujuaq." (Photo by David Benoit)

Languages get "Breath of Life"

American Indian languages get 'Breath of Life'

An intensive five-day workshop at OU's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History taught participants how to study and teach the linguistics of tribal languages

By James S. Tyree
Tracey Moore is a member of the Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee and Sac & Fox tribes who aims to help keep their disappearing languages alive by learning, speaking and teaching them.

She learned how recently during the Breath of Life workshop at the University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

The May 24-28 program taught participants how to conduct linguistic research on tribal languages, starting with archival materials at the museum.

The program is designed for people from tribes that lack fluent speakers of their language who want to help preserve the language for future generations.

Ojibwe declared Red Lake's official language

Ojibwe declared Red Lake Nation official language; language revitalization meeting scheduledAt a special April 27 meeting of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Tribal Council, elected officials voted unanimously to declare Ojibwe as the official language of the Red Lake Nation.

Michael Meuers, Red Lake public relations officer, reported that the resolution noted that many the indigenous languages in the United States are in danger of disappearing if they are not preserved or promoted. The Tribal Council declaration strongly supported the preservation of the Ojibwe language for the benefit of future generations.

Red Lake has already begun a multifaceted approach to preserve the language at Red Lake in a variety of ways, including sponsoring a two-day language summit held in June 2008. Other efforts include teaching on line, in the schools and community education. Other possibilities, such as language immersion, are being explored.

June 01, 2010

Digitizing old language tapes

Trying to save vanishing languages

American Indians turn to recordings at American Philosophical Society.

By Stephan Salisbury
Archivists and librarians at the philosophical society are acutely aware of the precarious nature of native languages. The conference represented the culmination of a three-year effort to digitize the society's holdings--which have been accumulating for more than two centuries--and make them widely accessible over the Internet.

At the same time, the society has sought to work with tribal communities to find ways they can take advantage of the material, formerly available only to a small world of on-site scholars.

Michael Zimmerman, a Pokagon Potawatami linguist from Dowagiac in southwestern Michigan, said he found several hours of tapes in the society's archives recorded a generation ago in his own community. The material will help Zimmerman overcome local resistance to learning Potawatami from outside speakers.

Such resistance, which is not uncommon, has severely hampered efforts to resurrect language in a community that no longer has native speakers, he said.
Below:  "Timothy Powell, director of special American Indian projects for the American Philosophical Society, holds a microphone for Watie Akins of the Penobscot Nation during Welcome Song." (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)

Learners' dictionaries for Alaskan languages

Southeast languages focus of books

NATIVE:  Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian words, phrases are included.

By Mike Dunham
Sealaska Heritage Institute has published a new series of learners' dictionaries for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages and the first-ever Alaska Haida phrasebook.

"We've been working on language restoration for nearly 10 to 12 years, and I would say for a greater part of this we've been working on these dictionaries," institute president Rosita Worl said in a press release.

The new books incorporate some important innovations.

The "Dictionary of Tlingit," for instance, is the first to include nouns and verbs and all minor word categories in a single resource. The vast majority of the verb forms have never before been documented or published. It also includes example sentences for most of the entries, which illustrate the words in a context.

May 15, 2010

Instant messaging in Cherokee

Saving the language of the Cherokee

By Rob ReynoldsEach kid in the 4th grade classroom I visited was assigned a laptop equipped with a Cherokee keyboard. Like children everywhere, they were busy instantly-messaging each other—in Cherokee.

"They can use iChat and speak in Cherokee or they can converse with one anther in the syllabary on line," says Cherokee Nation's language director, Samantha Benn-Duke. "So, we will be revitalising the language in that manner."

Technology can be an outstanding tool to preserve and expand endangered languages, says Swarthmore College linguist K David Harrison, who works with the Living Tongues Institute.

"What we're seeing happening all over the globe is that small languages are levering the newest technologies. You can now have a small or minority language represented in an iPhone app, on a social networking site, and by putting these small languages out through these new technological channels—this is an amazing way to revitalise languages."
Below:  "Cherokee members at a museum in Washington."

May 12, 2010

Voter guides in Native languages

Federal Agency Issues Voter Guides in Native American and Alaska Native LanguagesCitizens who speak Navajo, Cherokee, Dakota and Yup’ik, the most commonly spoken Native American and Alaska Native languages in the U.S., will now have access to federal election voter guides in their native languages. Download the guides.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Language Assistance Program translated the guides to improve voting accessibility for Americans who speak these languages and have limited English proficiency.

April 29, 2010

Manitoba play in Métis dialect

Métis language to take centre stage at Le Cercle Molière

By Arielle GodboutThe closing play for next season at Le Cercle Molière theatre is already creating buzz—partly due to the fact the dialogue will be in French Michif, a dialect of Manitoba’s Métis.

It’s a first for the St. Boniface theatre company, which will premiere the new play next April.

"That is my understanding, that they’ve never focused on this language the way this play does," said the La Salle-based playwright, Rhéal Cenerini.

The play—Li Rvenant—takes place in a fictional Manitoba community of Métis fishermen.

The main character returns to his village after being exiled with a mission, Cenerini said.
Below:  "Rhéal Cenerini’s newest play, Li Rvenant, features substantial parts of the dialogue in French Michif, a dialct spoken by some Métis in Manitoba."

Saving Cree via Facebook

Poke from the future, protect the Cree past

Ernest Hester is using Facebook to help preserve his traditional language

By Zev Singer
Ernest Hester is trying to preserve the East Cree language, one Facebook posting at a time.

The Carleton University student, worried about the future of his language, which has about 13,000 speakers, decided a few months ago to start a Cree Facebook group.

For a small language to have any chance of survival, the key, obviously, is enthusiasm from young people.

Young people like Facebook. So far, more than 400 members have joined the group.
Comment:  For more on saving languages via Facebook, see Cherokee Language on Facebook.

April 22, 2010

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April 12, 2010

8th annual Oklahoma language fair

Eisenhower Elementary School’s studies help preserve American Indian languages

Children study to preserve American Indian languages

By James S. Tyree
Niigan Sunray, a third-grader at Eisenhower Elementary School, said she practiced 10 months to tell the story of "Tobi Ofi,” or white dog, in the dialect called Alabama Six-towns Choctaw.

If practice didn’t make perfect, it was close enough, as she won the individual spoken language contest Monday during the eighth annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair.

"It’s our migration story, from the west to the east,” Sunray said of a Choctaw band that moved back to the southeastern United States. "It was fun for me.”

Niigan is one of 636 children of all ages registered for the two-day language fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Candessa Tehee Morgan, the event’s coordinator, said 25 American Indian languages will be spoken in 370 presentations.

April 03, 2010

Customer service in Cree, Inuktitut

RBC becomes first Canadian bank to offer indigenous languages telephone serviceRBC today announced the introduction of Cree and Inuktitut, two of the most commonly-spoken indigenous languages in Canada, to its multi-language telephone banking service. RBC is the first Canadian financial institution to offer telephone services in these languages.

Launched in 2008, RBC's multi-language telephone service has more than 2,600 specialized interpreters who help with day-to-day basic business and personal banking inquiries such as opening an account, paying bills or requesting foreign exchange information at no cost to the client. Interpreters are available to help translate 180 different languages.

"Canada is home to a variety of languages that many organizations do not recognize, or have the capacity to service through translation," explained Dale Sturges, national director, Aboriginal Banking, RBC. "We are pleased to be able to continue reaching out to an underserved market by incorporating Cree and Inuktitut into our customer service capabilities. RBC has a long history of building relationships with the Aboriginal community and we remain committed to finding innovative ways to partner with our clients to meet their financial needs."

March 21, 2010

Cherokee claymation language films

Videographer:  A portrait of Nathan Young IV

By Honey Dawn Karima PettigrewWhile emphasizing cultural studies and bilingual education in Native American languages, Young encountered Joe Erb, who taught him the techniques needed to create stop motion claymation movies. “I had the opportunity to work on ‘The Messenger’ to learn animation and I was lucky that Fort Gibson was so supportive in giving me the resources and freedom to learn,” he said.

Young, whose passion for Native American languages led him to pursue the study of Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw at the University of Oklahoma, viewed claymation films as an opportunity to educate and inspire. As part of the bilingual education program at Fort Gibson, Young’s students created short films, using the stop motion technique. These films shared traditional Cherokee stories, were performed in Cherokee (with English subtitles) by the students, who ranged in age from middle to high school level.
And:“I’m also working on a Pawnee language animation. I’m Pawnee/Kiowa/Delaware, and my Pawnee project is part one of a HAKO series that is called ‘Kits-pa-rux-ti: The Wonderful River.’” Young is eagerly anticipating the development of this series as a celebration of Pawnee culture.

“It’s the story of the origin of the Pawnee Medicine Societies. It’s not going to be a claymation, more like cell animation, actually drawn by frame. I’m just getting the language together now so that I can start animating.”

March 18, 2010

Ojibwe language learning software

Multi media company releases language learning software

By Kevin RoachGrassroots Indigenous Multimedia announces the launch of their new Ojibwe language learning software, Ojibwemodaa. The software application uses video conversations and engaging games to immerse the user in the Ojibwe language.

Mary Hermes, University of Minnesota professor with years of experience in education, and her husband Kevin Roach, an Ojibwe artist with expertise in tribal art and computer graphics, founded the nonprofit organization Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia (GIM) with the mission of developing materials designed to teach Ojibwe and other Native American languages.

GIM began recording videos of conversations between elders at language camps and other venues. For Ojibwe and many other indigenous languages, it is the everyday, conversational language that is least documented but most useful words and phrases for beginning learners. It was their original intention to simply publish the translated and transcribed videos on a website or youtube.

But in the process of applying for grants to support GIM’s work, Mary heard about Transparent Language from Ed McDermott at the U.S. Department of Education. He told them that Transparent had unique language tools and might be willing to let them use these tools to develop Ojibwe materials. Mary quickly contacted Michael Quinlan, CEO of Transparent Language, who offered his enthusiastic support, and a simple idea started growing into something big.

March 03, 2010

E-mailing with Cherokee keyboard

Letter perfect

Keyboard overlays help teach students the Cherokee language.

By Clifton Adcock
The e-mail was composed entirely in Cherokee syllabary.

Rachel and others at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School are the new keepers of their culture's fire, carrying into the information age the Cherokee language and its syllabary, created by Sequoyah nearly two centuries ago.

Although the font was created through an agreement between the tribe and Apple Inc. a few years ago, the students have a new tool to help type the language: a keyboard overlay that replaces the letters of the English alphabet with those of the 85-character syllabary.

Students had been using a variety of keystrokes on a standard keyboard to type in Cherokee, but now they can lay a thin black silicone pad over the standard keyboard to find the corresponding characters.
Below:  "Cherokee Nation Immersion School student Cambria Byrd chats with friends in the Cherokee language on her laptop Thursday. The school now has keyboard overlays to help students type using the Cherokee syllabary." (Adam Wisneski/Tulsa World)

February 21, 2010

Olympics broadcast in Native languages

Native voices bring Olympics home

Play-by-play commentary in aboriginal languages a labour of love, creativity

By Paul Watson
There is no word for seconds in the Mohawk language, which makes it especially difficult to call the action in an Olympic ski race live for television.

Tiorahkwathe Gilbert was the first among his people to broadcast Olympic men's super-G in his native language Friday afternoon.

A rookie to sports commentary, he has spent months training for the landmark moment. He's had long discussions with elders in coffee shops and at kitchen tables to agree on the best way to express things the Mohawk haven't had much cause to say before.
And:For the first time in Canadian history, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is providing play-by-play commentary of live sports in Cree, Mohawk, Ojibway, Dene, Inuktitut, Michif and Oji-Cree.

Most of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit broadcasters calling the Winter Olympics action for APTN are rookies recruited from communities across the country and trained by veteran sportscaster Jim Van Horne.

Van Horne's dulcet voice is familiar to fans of hockey on TSN. He has also broadcast from the Calgary, Sydney and Beijing Olympics. During the Vancouver Games, he's working from APTN's Winnipeg studios, mentoring the aboriginal broadcasters he coached.
Comment:  As with singing pop songs in Inuktitut, this may be the best way to preserve Native languages. Namely, by using them in everyday life. By employing them in the popular culture. By linking them to fun, engaging subjects such as music and the Olympics.

Below:  "Tiorahkwathe Gilbert, a commentator with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, broadcast the Olympic men's super-G event in Mohawk." (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

February 18, 2010

Preserving Inuktitut with pop music

Popular music a way to preserve InuktitutA conference on northern languages in Iqaluit has ended with some participants urging territorial governments to use popular music as a way of promoting and preserving Inuktitut.

The Nunavut Language Summit examined ways in which music—and not the traditional throat singing or other ancient forms of entertainment—can help younger Inuit connect with their culture.

"Definitely, I think Inuktitut can be preserved through poetry, through songwriting, through every kind of writing there is," Juno award-winning performer Susan Aglukark, who sings in both English and Inuktitut, told CBC News.
Nearby Greenland proves this approach can work:Canadian delegates have cast an eye towards their neighbours in Greenland where young Inuk dance in clubs to lyrics in Kalaallisut, the Greenlandic language.

There are two major music labels on the island which boast music in the Greenlandic language from many genres: rock, hip hop and soul.

Local performers such as Chilly Friday and Nanook are treated like celebrities.

February 16, 2010

Printing books with Cherokee syllabary

Books to be printed in Cherokee syllabaryThe newest addition to Southwestern Community College's Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts is actually a very old technology: a letterpress that will be used to print books in the Cherokee syllabary.

“We are bringing back the Cherokee history in true art form,” said Luzene Hill, OICA program outreach coordinator.

Years ago the Eastern Band published a newspaper called Tsa la gi Tsu lehisanunhi, or the Cherokee Phoenix. This first Native American newspaper was printed on a hot-type letterpress in which each word was put together by hand, combining individual metal letters or characters.

Through a $68,846 grant from Cherokee Preservation Foundation and a $47,792 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, OICA will purchase a metal press and develop a print-making studio at its facilities on Bingo Loop Road in Cherokee.

February 12, 2010

Indian sign language endangered

Forum explores cultural language

By Kyle Turner Davis said NAISL was an alternate sign system that was conventionalized and distinct from other forms of communication. It is separate from gesticulation that co-occurs with spoken language and was used for hunting, rituals and other practices observing silence.

When asked if NAISL was created specifically for deaf people, Davis supported the possibility due to the historically higher percentage of hearing impaired among Native Americans. He said it has spread and evolved over time to become a complete language for others and not just the deaf.

Unlike monastic or occupational sign systems, NAISL is much more complex, Davis said.

Records indicate 12 language families and 40 spoken languages among the Native Americans but approximately only seven spoken languages in four linguistic families remain.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indian and American Sign Languages.

February 01, 2010

Web-based language tools

The Web Way to Learn a Language

By Eric A. TaubWith the growth of broadband connectivity and social networks, companies have introduced a wide range of Internet-based language learning products, both free and fee-based, that allow students to interact in real time with instructors in other countries, gain access to their lesson plans wherever they are in the world, and communicate with like-minded virtual pen pals who are also trying to remember if bambino means baby.

Learning a language sometimes seems as difficult as dieting. The solution is to figure out how to stay interested after the novelty wears off.

To counter boredom, online language programs have introduced crossword puzzles, interactive videos and other games to reward users for making progress.

Online courses are either fee-based, free or a combination. Starter kits of fee-based programs may cost just a few hundred dollars, but the cost to reach higher levels of comprehension and speaking can easily be $1,000.

Charter school teaches Ojibwe

Growing charter school teaches with culture, language

By Dan GundersonThe school Web site hosts video language tutorials produced by third-graders.

Kent Estey runs the media center, a small room crammed with computer equipment. He said the language videos are one way to connect the school with the community.

"So we have students actually teaching their parents and reminding their grandparents of the Ojibwe language that is lost," Estey said. "Technology is a wonderful tool."

The students also publish their own books and they just started a weekly podcast.
Below:  "Murals highlighting important traditional cultural events fill a wall in the school gym in Naytahwaush, Minn." (MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)

January 28, 2010

Cherokee recognized for language initiative

Cherokee Nation receives Humanities Council AwardThe Cherokee Nation has been named the 2010 recipient of the Humanities in Education award for its significant contribution to the humanities in Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Humanities Council. The Nation was selected for the award in recognition of the tribe’s Cherokee language program and the Cherokee Nation Immersion School, according to a media release.

“We are honored to receive this recognition of outstanding achievement in a comprehensive Cherokee language and culture initiative,” said Dr. Neil Morton, group leader for Cherokee Nation Education Services. “The award brings special honor to the dedicated staff of the language program and to all the Cherokee Nation Group Leaders for their support of the Tribal Language Initiative.”

January 26, 2010

Rosetta Stone releases Chitimacha language

Rosetta Stone releases Chitimacha languageRosetta Stone Inc. today announced the release of the Chitimacha language version of Rosetta Stone® software for exclusive use by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana. The last fluent Chitimach speaker died in 1940 but the tribe is trying to revive its language.

Rosetta Stone helps people learn a language by linking the meaning and structure of a new language directly to real world objects and events without translation. The Chitimacha language version of the software has been created through a Rosetta Stone corporate grant with all distribution rights belonging to the tribe.

January 09, 2010

Cherokee choir sings old favorites

Cherokee National Youth Choir release entertaining, educational

By Gary FifeThe award-winning Cherokee National Youth Choir announces the release of its latest music CD, “Learning as We Sing,” a project intended to both entertain and teach language skills. The new CD contains a variety of well-known traditional music intended for singing along, including patriotic American songs, Cherokee cultural songs, and even some Christmas songs.

“We’re extremely excited about this new album,” said Mary Kay Henderson, CNYC’s director.

Henderson said that the CD was designed to make learning Cherokee a little bit easier by using translations of familiar songs.

Listeners can sing along with the choir and learn old favorites such as “The Star Spangled Banner,” “This Land is Your Land,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman,” all in the Cherokee language.