December 29, 2011

Erdrich sisters' Ojibwe-language press

Literature the Ojibwe Way: Erdrich Sisters’ Wiigwaas Press Helps Preserve Ojibwemowin

By Konnie LeMayIn 2008, Heid and Louise Erdrich, both authors and sisters from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, founded the Birchbark House Fund “to support the work of indigenous language scholars and authors,” Heid Erdrich told Indian Country Today Media Network. In 2010 the two created Wiigwaas Press to publish books solely in the Ojibwe language. Heid oversees the day-to-day operations. Wiigwaas, or birch bark, seemed an appropriate name; the durable bark once served as the medium for delivering messages.

“That was our original writing material for the sacred literature as well as the personal stories,” said Erdrich. “Birch bark was also used for messages such as, ‘We went thataways.’ It was the ‘sticky notes’ of the Ojibwe.”

The sisters first discussed a need for an Ojibwe-language press when Louise helped Mille Lacs Band elder Jim Clark write his autobiography. In 2002 she published that book, Naawigiizis, The Memories of Center of the Moon, through her Minneapolis bookstore, Birchbark Books.

“James Clark has written both in English and in Anishinaabemowin,” Heid Erdrich said. “But the language doesn’t translate precisely.”
Below:  "From left, sisters Heid, Louise and Angela Erdrich enjoy some time together. Heid and Louise are authors and have created Birchbark House Fund to support indigenous language scholars and authors and Wiigwaas Press to publish Ojibwe-language books. Dr. Angela Erdrich, a pediatrician at the Indian Health Board in Minneapolis, is on the national board of Reach Out and Read." (Marian Moore)

December 22, 2011

Cherokee Nation joins Unicode Consortium

Cherokee Nation Joins International Language ConsortiumThe Cherokee Nation has joined the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit formed in 1987 to set international software standards, to help promote growth in use of the Cherokee language.

“Our program [the Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program] focuses on getting all kinds of technology to support the Cherokee language. So, we’ve done work with Apple to get Cherokee on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and we’ve worked with Facebook to get some of the localization of that into the syllabary. We’ve worked with Google doing the same thing,” said Roy Boney Jr., a language technologist with the Cherokee Nation.

“When Windows 8 comes out next year, it’ll have a keyboard and font standard on all Windows 8 machines as well,” said Boney’s co-worker and fellow language technologist, Joseph Erb. “We work with major companies to make sure that when a product comes out our language has access to it.”
Below:  Roy Boney Jr. (left) and Joseph Erb (right), language technologists with Cherokee Nation Education Services, give a presentation about Cherokee language technology during a conference. The Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee language are now represented in the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit international organization that sets international software standards."

December 17, 2011

Porcupine books in Ojibwe

Mom Turned Author Creates Aboriginal Children’s CharacterFaced with two sons learning to read and no dual-language books at her disposal, Emilie Corbiere took matters into her own hands. She created Porcupine, a “grumpy sourpuss” who trots through the world having adventures and making friends.

“There just didn’t seem to be anything out there for my children,” she told the Canadian digital magazine “I looked in bookshops and in the library and couldn’t find what I was looking for. I made up my mind to create a character that children could relate to but that could also be written using the Ojibwe language.”

What sets the series apart is that each book contains four Ojibwe words that are repeated throughout the story, by way of teaching a bit of language as kids learn to read.

December 16, 2011

Census data on Native languages

Arizona has most Indian language speakersApache County in Arizona has 37,000 speakers of an American Indian language, the highest concentration in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

A report by the bureau's American FactFinder said although the majority of American Indian language speakers reside in areas where there are concentrated populations of American Indians or Alaskan indigenous peoples, only 5 percent of the residents of those areas speak a tribal language.

Sixty-five percent of tribal language speakers live in just three states--Alaska, Arizona and New Mexico. Nine counties within the three states contain half the nation's tribal language speakers, the report said.

After Apache County in Arizona, McKinley County, N.M., has the second most speakers at 33,000. Together, about 20 percent of all American Indian language speakers in the nation live in these two counties.

The most commonly spoken American Indian language is Navajo, with more than 169,000 people speakers nationally--nearly nine times larger than the second- and third-most commonly spoken languages of Yupik and Dakota, with each having about 19,000 speakers.
Navajos top list of Native language speakers in US

By Felicia FonsecaMore people speak Navajo at home than any other Native American language, a seemingly promising 169,000 people at a time when some tribes have lost their native tongue or are struggling to retain the words of their ancestors.

Evangeline Parsons Yazzie, a Navajo professor at Northern Arizona University, said the figure recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau is no surprise, but can be misleading. The country's population of Navajos is well over 300,000. For every one who speaks the language, one doesn't--and those are likely younger Navajos, Yazzie said.

"Navajo has the largest population, they say, of Native speakers, but it also has the largest population of non-speakers," she said Wednesday. "And it kind of presents a skewed picture."

The figure is based on five-year estimates from community surveys that allowed the Census for the first time to study small segments of the U.S. population. The Census found in a study released this month that fewer than a half-million people age 5 and over speak a Native American language at home. About 65 percent of them are in nine counties in Arizona, New Mexico and Alaska.
U.S. Census:  Over 27,000 Oklahomans Speak A Native American LanguageA northeastern Arizona county has the highest number of Native American language speakers in the country.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Apache County in eastern Arizona has 37,000 such speakers, while 10 Oklahoma counties have just over 27,000 Native American language speakers.

The figure is based on five-year estimates from community surveys that allowed the Census for the first time to study small segments of the U.S. population.

The Census found that fewer than a half-million people age 5 and over speak a Native American language at home.

December 14, 2011

Salish numbers book

Salish Numbers Book Helps Kids Learn Native LanguageChildren aged 2 to 6 can now learn to count in nsəlxcin—the Colville-Okanagan Interior Salish Language spoken by Native American and First Nations peoples who live between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains in Washington and British Columbia, Canada.

The 26-page book nsəlxcin sc'ak'—Salish Numbers by Jennifer Childress is illustrated with full-color photographs and includes a pronunciation guide. The book was published by Shinkashim, which is a division of Childress Media & Design, LLC, which according to its website “offers Interior Salish language books and educational materials for young children as part of the on-going effort to preserve and promote the family of endangered Interior Salish languages.”

The book is $19.95 for paperback and $49.95 for hardcover. To download the order form visit the Shinkashim website.

Raiders broadcasts in Navajo

Raiders vs Lions to Be Broadcast in Navajo

Sunday marks the 13th time a Raiders game will be broadcast in Navajo on KTNN 660 AMFor the seventh consecutive season, KTNN 660, the Voice of the Navajo Nation, will broadcast a Raiders game to their audience in the four-corners of the Southwest this Sunday when the Oakland Raiders take on the Detroit Lions at O.Co Coliseum. Raider games have been broadcast in Navajo 12 previous times over the past six seasons through an agreement with KTNN 660 AM–one each in 2010 and 2009, two in 2008, four in 2007, two in 2006 and two in 2005. L.A. Williams and Ray Tsosie, both award-winning broadcasters, will again call the action.

"We salute the Navajo Nation and are honored and proud to broadcast Raiders games in Navajo," said Oakland Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask. "Broadcasting our games in Navajo is part of our commitment to reaching our global fan base in a variety of languages and furthers the efforts of the Navajo Nation to preserve this important and valuable language."

December 12, 2011

Mvskoke-language Bible

From Greek to Creek:  Man publishes Mvskoke language Bible

By Karen ShadeA retired welder from General Motors’ Oklahoma City plant, Randall formed the idea to reprint the Bible in the language of the Muscogee-Creek and Seminole people when he attended a Muscogee language class. Randall doesn’t speak the language but for some phrases and a handful of words, yet he remembers his parents and grandparents speaking it in the home to all the children.

“They spoke fluent Creek and talked to one another. They spoke to us in the Creek language also,” he said. “We understood what they were saying, but for some reason we didn’t pick it up.”
And:Randall learned a few early versions of the Creek Bible New Testament had been printed. However, it was a woman named Ann Eliza Worchester Robertson who made the biggest leap. By the time of her death in 1905, Mrs. Robertson, a missionary at the old Tullahassee Mission, had nearly finished revising her translation of the New Testament for its fifth edition printing. She’d even worked on part of the Old Testament directly from Greek holy texts where she could. A woman of letters, she found antiquity Greek language had similarities to Creek, and it made sense to work from a more direct source than from the King James Version.

Eventually, the Tullahassee Mission was closed. Robertson was a frail woman and tended to be ill. During her periods of recuperation, she worked on her translation with the help of native speakers.

When Randall resumed her work in 2002, he began by retyping the translation with the help of his son, Monte Randall, to put it back in print. He streamlined the style by making changes such as converting all–not just some–of the chapters to Arabic numerals rather than Roman numerals. He was careful about approaching his work and any necessary revisions.

“Even though this lady translated it and I reprinted it, I don’t want to change God’s words. That’s my thought–to be as accurate as I can,” he said.
Below:  "Steve Randall, a Muscogee Creek, holds a copy of his Muscogee language Bible in front of his church, Hickory Ground No. 2 Indian Baptist, south of Henryetta, Okla." (Karen Shade/Native American Times Photo)

November 21, 2011

Ojibwe home movies

New home movies resurrect endangered Native American language

Educator develops multimedia tools to share, preserve Ojibwe language.

By Science NationMon

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Hermes is combining the skills of native speakers with video technology to help others, young and old, learn the language in the most natural way. She's doing it by videotaping short movies of everyday situations, from going to a rummage sale to planting a garden to helping out a sick relative.

"Because Ojibwe isn't spoken on a regular basis, there's not a store or a rummage sale or a resort, but part of what we're doing is trying to re-envision what that would be like," explains Hermes.

"So imagine if Ojibwe was the language of commerce, the language of everywhere you went; everything you did was in Ojibwe," she says.

"What we are hoping is that you hear it in an everyday way, [with phrases like] 'tie your shoes,' 'get up,' 'hey mom what's for breakfast,'—that kind of informal speaking ... that's not necessarily correct formal grammar, but the way you would speak it," she says.

Once those short movies are transcribed by native speakers, they are combined with vocabulary lists, pronunciations, and interactive games to create educational DVDs.

Oklahoma State apparel in Cherokee

Supporting Sooners and Cowboys with SyllabaryAs reported this summer, Oklahoma State leads the nation in the number of Native Americans receiving bachelor’s degrees, and the University of Oklahoma comes in third—so it is perhaps a simple matter of supply and demand that has given rise to university-branded apparel featuring Cherokee syllabary, now available at “Cherokee people have had a passion for sports for hundreds of years and these new products allow us to showcase our tribal heritage and culture while supporting the schools we love,’” said Molly Jarvis, vice president of cultural tourism at Cherokee Nation Entertainment, in a statement.

Syllabary caps and T-shirts are also available for Northeastern State University, the school that graduates the second-most American Indians in the country.

November 20, 2011

Inuktitut mobile app

There’s an (Inuktitut) App for ThatCanada’s first Inuktitut app has been launched. The Canada Council for the Arts is giving out information on how to apply for grants with an app for iPads, iPhones, the iPod touch and Androids in the language of the Inuit. The goal is to attract musicians, artists and writers of the far north to the programs.And:The app was developed by FaveQuest Corporation, which builds websites and mobile apps for events such as festivals and conventions, according to its own website.

“We’ve built many mobile apps, but never before have we had the opportunity to design and build something with content in Inuktitut. It’s a beautiful looking language, and it was a thrill to bring the first-ever mobile app containing Inuktitut to the Apple iTunes store and the Android Market,” FaveQuest Co-founder Bill Love said in a statement. “FaveQuest is proud that we are part of this first-ever, and we hope these apps will help the Canada Council for the Arts communicate with the Canadian artistic community.”

Inuktitut app

There’s an (Inuktitut) App for ThatCanada’s first Inuktitut app has been launched. The Canada Council for the Arts is giving out information on how to apply for grants with an app for iPads, iPhones, the iPod touch and Androids in the language of the Inuit. The goal is to attract musicians, artists and writers of the far north to the programs.And:The app was developed by FaveQuest Corporation, which builds websites and mobile apps for events such as festivals and conventions, according to its own website.

“We’ve built many mobile apps, but never before have we had the opportunity to design and build something with content in Inuktitut. It’s a beautiful looking language, and it was a thrill to bring the first-ever mobile app containing Inuktitut to the Apple iTunes store and the Android Market,” FaveQuest Co-founder Bill Love said in a statement. “FaveQuest is proud that we are part of this first-ever, and we hope these apps will help the Canada Council for the Arts communicate with the Canadian artistic community.”

October 18, 2011

24-hour Navajo-language radio

KYAT-FM offers 24-hour Navajo language

By Erny ZahLocal FM radio listeners this week started hearing some unusual sounds at 94.5 on the dial--Navajo-language broadcasts.

Last Saturday, KYAT became the only FM station known to be dedicated entirely to speaking in Diné bizaad.
And:Malti and disc jockeys Eugene Plummer, Buddy Lee and Roy Keeto, collaborated to put together a Navajo-language station that has a broadcast philosophy based in traditional Navajo teachings.

Rather than a linear plan, they envision a circular structure with goals to achieve along the way until they have achieved the creation of an enduring community resource to reach and uplift listeners.

More than just music and announcements, Malti said he plans to incorporate history, stories and information that gives a picture of Navajo life, both contemporary and traditional.

When it comes to music programming, KYAT plans to maintain a mix of classic and contemporary country, Native American and Western music.
Below:  Eugene Plummer announces on the first morning of broadcasting for new radio station K-YA-T in Gallup. The station offers 24-hour, all-Navajo language broadcasts." (Donovan Quintero)

October 13, 2011

Google Maps in Cherokee

Technology group creates Google Maps in Cherokee

By Tesina JacksonAfter translating English words into Cherokee for many projects in the past few years, the Cherokee Nation language technology group decided to use those translations by creating Google Maps using the Cherokee syllabary.

“Other projects that we’ve done we’ve had to do a lot of countries and we figured that one of the reasons we wanted to do this is because we were doing so many different localizations for different projects and we were ending up with a large database of country names,” said Joseph Erb, language technologist. “We wanted to figure out a way to actually put this out there where people could see it and look at things and we wouldn’t just have the data on a couple of computers somewhere. We could actually put it out and the community could go to it and find out different names for things or see a map in the language.”
Comment:  For more on Cherokee, see Cherokees Mourn Steve Jobs and Webcomic on Cherokee Language.

Below:  "Creating a map on Google Maps allowed the language technology group to add places and points of interests and even upload videos providing information on that location in the Cherokee language."

September 20, 2011

Webcomic on Cherokee language

In an online comic, Sequoyah (via writer/artist Roy Boney Jr.) explains "How the Cherokee Syllabary Went from Parchment to iPad":

Exclusive:  Artist Roy Boney’s Special Graphic Feature on the Cherokee Language

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

September 15, 2011

Yup'ik language rock

Bethel's Frozen Whitefish to release full-length rock album next year

By Kyle HopkinsFrozen Whitefish is a Bethel based Alaskan Native Yupik Rock band formed in 2010 and all lyrics are written in the Yupik Eskimo language. Frontman Mike McIntyre was raised in the small village of Eek and spoke Yupik as his first language before moving to Bethel as a young child.

Frozen Whitefish was first a project started by Mike after he returned from a trip to Greenland where he played drums for the Kuskokwim Fiddle Band in the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in 2010. He was inspired by the influence of their Native language in their own music and wanted to do the same here in Alaska. Soon after he started recording his music in his home studio, he got a request from a Native radio station in Washington to send his songs over to a TV producer with the Discovery Channel, which was gathering Native music for the "Flying Wild Alaska" TV show.

September 14, 2011

Ojibwe book is Minnesota's Best Read

AWESIINYENSAG, Wiigwaas Press, and the Minnesota's Best Read for 2011This is terrific news! Awesiinyensag, a book published by Heid and Louise Erdrich's Wiigwaas Press, was selected as Minnesota's Best Read for 2011. That means the book will represent the state of Minnesota at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.

As you might glean from reading the title, the text is not in English. Here's the blurb:Awesiinyensag presents original stories, written in Anishinaabemowin, that delight readers and language learners with the antics of animals who playfully deal with situations familiar to children in all cultures. Suitable for all ages, this book can be read aloud, assigned to classes, shared at language tables, gifted to elders, and enjoyed by those curious about the language and all who love Anishinaabemowin.

Authored by a team of twelve and richly illustrated by Ojibwe artist Wesley Ballinger, Awesiinyensag will be the first in a series created to encourage learning Anishinaabemowin, the language of Ojibwe people.
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 9/7/11.)

August 26, 2011

Wampanoag word games and children's TV

Cape Cod’s first language is spoken again

Many are studying Wopanaak

By Ellen ChaheyAccording to literature from the project, “Recognizing that the colonists preferred” written documents, the native people of Cape Cod “became the first American Indians in the English-speaking New World to develop and use an alphabetic writing system…to record personal letters, wills, deeds, and land transfers amongst each other and between communities.”

As preliminary work, the language project has created a dictionary, some Wampanoag-based word games, coloring and storybooks, and even a three-day “immersion camp” where only the native language is spoken. A major characteristic of the language that Hicks called “complicated” is that it does not distinguish between genders but does separate “animate” and “inanimate.”

The organizers hope to create a children’s television program, an interactive website, a school, and other teaching venues to help revive the language. The goal, said Hicks, is “to get everyone” in the tribe “to the level they want” in language fluency.

Little Doe, who began the reclamation project in 1993, won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in October 2010 for her efforts.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see We Still Live Here Âs Nutayuneân and Documentary on Reviving Wampanoag.

August 25, 2011

Lakota Berenstain Bears to premiere

Native American Version of Berenstain Bears Launches SoonAfter more than a year in the making, the Lakota version of the popular cartoon The Berenstain Bears or Matȟó Waúŋšila Thiwáhe—The Compassionate Bear Family—will make its debut September 11 at 9 a.m. through South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) and Prairie Public Television.

Two episodes a week will air on SDPB digital channel 3 and Prairie Public’s digital channel 4 every Sunday morning through November. Then, local access stations KOLC and REZ IPTV will broadcast the show to viewers on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River reservations.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Berenstain Bears Cartoons in Lakota.

August 23, 2011

Ute language grade-school elective

Ute language pull out offered

By Ranae BangerterAll grades at Eagle View Elementary School will have a chance to take Ute Indian Tribe language class as a specialty course.

During a presentation to the Uintah School Board on Aug. 9, Eagle View Principal Robert Stearmer explained when the course would be taught and how students could join it.

He said the 30-45 minute class will be taught three to five days a week depending on the schedule associated with similar specialty classes and can substitute the time slot normally used for music, P.E. or art class.

August 06, 2011

Resurrecting Tunica

La.'s Tunica tribe revives its lost languageThere were a few old, wax phonograph cylinders with the language recorded on them, but years of wear and background noise made the chants impossible to decipher, said Kathleen Bell, a graduate student who worked on the project.

"The quality was terrible, and the drums more or less drowned out the chants," she said.

The researchers were able to refer to past work by academics. One published a short grammar of the language in 1921, and a linguistics scholar in 1939 worked with the last tribal member known to be conversant in the Tunica language.

Mary Haas, a linguist who worked with a number of Native American languages, worked with a tribal elder, writing down stories and bits of Tunica history. She used the International Phonetic Alphabet, marking stress and some intonations, but not enough to give Maxwell's group the rhythm, timing and the way the language was phrased, Bell said.

The modern scholars used Haas' material to create glossaries and a "more modern take on grammatical properties of the language," Maxwell said.
Below:  "In this Aug. 5, 2011 photo, Brenda Lintinger poses with one of her children's books she wrote in the Tunica Indian language, in her home in Metairie, La. Lintinger decided to do more than learn a new language." (Gerald Herbert)

August 05, 2011

Cherokee tours at Ancient Village

Cherokee-speaking tour guides enhance Ancient Village

By Will ChavezIt’s as it should be in the Cherokee Heritage Center’s Ancient Village because the Cherokee language is being spoken and heard daily.

Village tour guides J.D. Ross and Steven Daugherty, both fluent Cherokee speakers, use the language to explain the culture and traditions showcased in the village while using their first language.

This is the second year the men are serving as Cherokee-speaking tour guides.

Ross, of the Greasy Community in Adair County, said he enjoys speaking Cherokee and teaching others the language but finds it unfortunate that not many Cherokee-speaking people visit the village.
Below:  "Cherokee Heritage Center tour guide Steven Daugherty demonstrates bow shooting with a Cherokee bow for visitors at the Ancient Village in Park Hill, Okla. He is one of two Cherokee-speaking guides for the Ancient Village."

August 04, 2011

Tlingit flash cards

Alaska institute striving to pass on Tlingit, other endangered Native languages

By Jonathan GrassTlingit speakers and educators are fighting to keep that language alive. As those at Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) put it, creating new speakers will be key in accomplishing this.

In fact, the Native institute has just introduced a new Tlingit language card program as part of this mission.

The program is a set of flash cards and audio CDs to help gain efficiency in the alphabet. They use pictures as well as an online interactive tool to help kids learn the Native language.

Tlingit Curriculum Specialist Linda Belarde said the tool is important because new speakers are needed for a language to survive. As for Tlingit, she said there just aren't that many birth speakers left.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Children's Book in Tlingit and Learners' Dictionaries for Alaska Languages.

Below:  "In this Aug. 1, 2011, photo, Linda Belarde, a Tlingit Curriculum Specialist with the Sealaska Heritage Institute, displays some of the 50 Tlingit alphabet cards that she help produce in Juneau, Alaska." (Juneau Empire/Michael Penn)

July 25, 2011

Ojibwe signage spreads in Bemidji

Bemidji's Ojibwe Language Project Seeks to Make Effort Irreversible

Permanent Signage Posted by Sanford Health, Schools, OthersMany businesses and organization are trying new things with Ojibwe words demonstrating permanence, creativity, and fun. Beaver Books and others are using portable street ad signs to get their message across. Business owner Brian Larson had his business name translated into Ojibwe Mezinibii'igaadegin Wenizhishingin (Amity Graphics).

Noemi Aylesworth of the Cabin Coffeehouse, (the first business to post Ojibwe/English signage) has headings on menus written in Ojibwe, such as Dekaagamingin (Cold Drinks), Gitigaanensan (Salads), Gigizhebaa-wiisining (Breakfast), and more.

The Sanford Center has "Permanent" Ojibwe/English bi-lingual signage. All doors coming and going at the Sanford Center says Boozhoo (Hello) and Miigwech (Thank you) respectively. There are twelve pairs of restrooms in Sanford Center, each posted with permanent signage with Men/Ininiwag or Women/Ikwewag. And the parking lot has animal images with names in both languages to help you find your car.

Last but not least, Bemidji State University continues to be a leader in this effort by posting first class permanent Ojibwe/English signage throughout both campuses. Bemidji State Park, Itasca State Park, MN DOT, and the DNR are also participating along with over 130 other businesses and organizations.

"One of our concerns when soliciting businesses and organizations to post bi-lingual signage, was permanence," noted Meuers. "We wanted plastic, vinyl, or metal; we are hoping paper signs are only temporary. We are so excited, with Sanford Health, the schools, BSU, and others demonstrating leadership in posting permanent signage...and more. With efforts like this and the new creativity being shown, Bemidji will surely soon be known for its Ojibwe/English signage."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Bemidji Businesses Post Ojibwe Signs.

Below:  "Principal Drew Hildenbrand points out a sign that says, "Greetings, welcome to Bemidji Middle School."

July 24, 2011

"Cherokee Language Through Art"


A visual narrative of the Cherokee language opens at Museum Center at Five Points on Saturday

By Ann Nichols
Beginning Saturday, visitors to the Museum Center at Five Points in Cleveland can see a stunning exhibit of works created by 93 Cherokee artists. Different parts of the Cherokee culture are represented in "Generations: Cherokee Language Through Art." Ages of participants range from 3 to 91 years old, and the 85 pieces in the show display a wide range of media, styles and approaches.

The artworks were created by artists from the Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma), United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma) and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina). Participants are practicing artists from all three Cherokee tribes, Cherokee Nation Immersion School language students and Cherokee families.
And:Traditional materials used by Cherokee artists (river cane, gourds, wood, quilting, clay, basketry) contrast with contemporary items in the creation of the works in the show. For example, K.A. Gilliland, Andrew Sikora and their two children, Skyla and Sean, collaborated on a sculpture that incorporates a small television that is operated by remote control.

In addition to the artworks on display, there will be a section of the exhibit where a DVD will help visitors learn the correct phonetic pronunciation of each character in the Cherokee syllabary.

July 17, 2011

"Way of Life" summer camp

Land of 10,000 Stories:  Reviving the dying Dakota language

By Boyd Huppert"I see this as we're trying to rebuild that tiwahe and tiospaye, that family and that extended family component," said Teresa Peterson, the executive director of the project known as Dakota Wicohan--meaning "Way of Life."

"So what you're seeing is that reclaiming of kinship, in the way that we treat each other. That's the way of life," explained Peterson.

Dakota Wicohan recieves its funding primarily through state and federal grants, including monetary contributions from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment administered through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Gianna Strong is among those learning the language through the summer day camp. "I can eventually pass it down to my children," she said. "I think it's a big responsibility."

Mi'kmaq spreads to more PEI schools

Mi'kmaq language to be taught in 2 more P.E.I. schoolsSome Aboriginal students on P.E.I. will soon be able to study the Mi'kmaq language and culture in public schools.

The Island First Nations community will get an opportunity to help promote a language that is almost disappearing on the island.

The children are taking advantage of their summer camp to improve their knowledge of the Mi'kmaq language.

Up until now, students at John J. Sark Memorial School on Lennox Island were the only P.E.I. students to get Mi'kmaq language training—which ends at Grade 6.

But in September, two other schools will start offering courses.

July 02, 2011

LiveAndTell, A Crowdsourced Quest To Save Native American Languages

By Paul GladerIn an attempt to preserve endangered indigenous dialects such as Lakota and Ho Chunk, South Dakota-based programmer Biagio Arobba has built LiveAndTell, a user-generated content site for sharing and learning Native languages. It can work for any language, but his passion is to preserve the endangered tongues you won't find in textbooks, language programs, or widely taught in classrooms. "For Native American languages, there's a scarcity of learning materials,” Arobba says. “Native American languages are in a crisis and we have not moved very far beyond paper and pencil methods.”

Arobba, 32, is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. He built LiveAndTell as an efficient, easy-to-use way to pass the Lakota Sioux language (and others) from older generations to younger ones. An accompanying Facebook page is intended to introduce the languages to a broader audience.

LiveAndTell lets users create "audio tags" for pictures, similar to tagging on Facebook or Flickr. An audio recorder allows a Lakota speaker to record a message with each picture. They can also post a series of audio or text below each picture. In essence, it’s Flickr meets Rosetta Stone. The pictures and album can be embedded into other web sites as well. LiveAndTell has no upfront participation fees; users can sign in and start creating content immediately.

As LiveAndTell expands, Arobba is working with area tribes to integrate the web site into tribal sites, and is running workshops so Lakota speakers can learn how to input photos, audio, and text. He's planning mobile versions for the iPhone and Android platforms. He's also collaborating with Oglala Lakota College and others to apply for National Science Foundation funding.

July 01, 2011

We Are Family in Cherokee

Sisters Cree and Cheyenne Drowningbear (Cherokee), of Tahlequah, Oklahoma performed “We Are Family” in Cherokee at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair held recently at the Sam Noble Museum.

June 29, 2011

Reviving languages through texting

ITTO:  Teenagers Revive Dead Languages Through Texting

By Margaret RockSamuel Herrera, who runs the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research in Mexico City, found young people in southern Chile producing hip-hop videos and posting them on YouTube using Huilliche, a language on the brink of extinction.

Herrera also discovered teens in the Philippines and Mexico who think it's "cool" to send text messages in regional endangered languages like Kapampangan and Huave.

Almost as soon as text messaging exploded on the world stage as a means to reach anyone, anywhere, and anytime, young people began to find a way to scale it back, make it more exclusive and develop their own code or doublespeak to use on the widely-used devices.

Shorthand and abbreviations became a popular way to keep the "inside joke" of LOL, or "laughing out loud," and brb, or "be right back," within the circle. In time, though, these catchphrases reached a broader audience, losing their cache and exclusivity. As soon as its use became widespread and commercial, the code was no longer "cool."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Cherokee on the iPhone.

June 24, 2011

National Native Language Revitalization Summit

Summit celebrates native languages

By Nakia ZavallaOrganized by Cultural Survival, a proud member of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, this annual summit’s 2011 goal was to convene language advocates at the Library of Congress and engage every one of the 62 members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with Native language revitalization success stories.

As a tribe that has established a language reclamation project, our story is an important one to share. It demonstrates that a tribe can take a language that is near extinction and revitalize it for current and future generations to enjoy. We showed how investing tribal resources in our language revitalization efforts will help our tribal nation’s future.

The National Native Language Revitalization Summit relied both on the expert recommendations of national tribal policy organizations and on the local knowledge and recommendations of hundreds of grassroots tribal language programs like ours.

With scarcely 139 spoken Native languages remaining in the United States—and 70 of those spoken fluently only by the very elderly—the summit organizers believed it was important to act immediately to increase the limited federal support available for the nearly 600 tribal nations with a stake in revitalizing indigenous languages.

June 23, 2011

Camp teaches all things Ojibwe

Language camp teaches more than words

By Jana PetersonThis weekend’s Nagaajiwanaang language camp in Sawyer promises more than Ojibwe vocabulary words and spelling lessons. The four-day camp itself will be a lesson in all things Ojibwe, from attitude to native crafts to cooking Indian corn soup with ashes, plus canoe races and other contests that teach skills valued by the traditional Ojibwe culture.

It’s the third year for the camp, which organizers say fills a need in the American Indian community in northern Minnesota and beyond.

“There is a thirst for the language,” said Pat Northrup of Sawyer, one of the driving forces behind the camp. “I hear people in the community more in the last few years–since Fond du Lac made Ojibwe the official reservation language–talking about ‘what’s the word for this,’ learning the language. We’re providing resources.”

In addition to having a total of seven fluent speakers of Ojibwe, the camp will have language books for sale for the first time. There will be designated locations where only Ojibwe is spoken, and other activities–like Arne Vainio’s Mad Science presentations–at which an Ojibwe speaker will translate the English spoken by the presenter.

June 15, 2011

Indigenous tweets

Tweet Hereafter:  Social Media Is Saving Native Languages

By Doug MeigsKevin Scannell is a 40-year-old Irish American working in Saint Louis University’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. He says online tools of globalization have created positive opportunities equal or greater than their dangers. In March, he created, a website that aims to preserve and proliferate indigenous language by connecting Twitter users online. “The Internet is also a tool that we can use to combat globalization and colonization,” says Scannell. “The important thing is for people to use their language if they want it to survive. The Internet—websites like Twitter and Facebook, blogs and e-mail—give people an opportunity to write and chat and be creative while using their language in a natural way.”

For the uninitiated, Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to write and read short text messages called “tweets.” Each tweet is limited to 140 characters. Scannell’s website aggregates Twitter users who write in minority languages. He started with a list of 35 languages, which grew to almost 100 within two months. Twitter users can go to his website, view a list of other users writing in their own Native language, request to “follow” individuals, and then begin receiving their tweets. began when Scannell wrote a computer program to cross-reference Twitter messages with statistical data for minority languages. His website names languages by their Native names. For example, Navajo is listed as Diné bizaad, i.e., “Navajo language.” Click into the language and relevant Twitter users are listed on a second screen. The site then ranks Twitterers based on various criteria, such as number of tweets and percentage written in the language.

In addition to Navajo, other North American indigenous languages on the website include Delaware/Lenape, Lakota, Inuktitut, Mi’kmaq/Micmac and Secwepemctsín. features a cornucopia of minority languages worldwide, including some nearly extinct languages such as Gamilaraay from eastern Australia (the website notes one Twitter user who wrote a single tweet in Gamilaraay).

June 10, 2011

Oklahoma Breath of Life

American Indian language program receives $90K grant

By Darla SlipkLast summer, Hopper attended an intensive, weeklong program called Oklahoma Breath of Life—Silent no More. The workshop, hosted at the University of Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, was designed to give participants the tools they need to help revitalize American Indian languages that are endangered.

Organizers have received a $90,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the program.
University helps American Indians learn to save their languages

The Breath of Life project is a joint effort by experts from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Oklahoma in which linguists mentor American Indians so they can better recover endangered languages.

By Diane Smith
Fields is a participant in the Breath of Life project—a joint effort by experts from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Oklahoma—in which linguists mentor American Indians so they can better recover endangered languages.

It is modeled after a project at the University of California, Berkeley.

"We are growing field linguists," said Colleen Fitzgerald, associate professor and chairwoman of UT Arlington's Linguistics Department. "We are transferring knowledge to community members so they can teach their own languages."
And:Besides training American Indian community members to be linguists on the ground, UT Arlington will be working to create linguistic databases that will ultimately enable the creation of online dictionaries and collections of texts in various languages, Fitzgerald said.

Each community will have a database which will also be stored in a repository at the Noble museum.

May 29, 2011

New Testament in Gwich'in

Bible's New Testament translated into tribal languageThe Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says the DeMers, who are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators, have worked for 31 years to complete the Gwich'in translation of the New Testament.

The Gwich'in people are the only Athabascan tribe to have the New Testament in their language.

May 20, 2011

Children's book in Tlingit

Children's book aims to save dying Alaskan language

Scholar's version of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse translated into Tlingit with the help of local elders

By Alison Flood
The first ever children's book to be translated into the endangered Alaskan language of Tlingit has just been published, with hopes riding high that it will help keep the dying language alive.

Inspired by the classic story of the town mouse and the country mouse, American book award-winning author and historian of her mother's Tlingit tribe Ernestine Hayes wrote The Story of the Town Bear and the Forest Bear in English. Local publisher Hazy Island Books then worked with Tlingit elders to translate the book into the highly endangered language, spoken today by only around 500 people, releasing Aanka Xóodzi ka Aasgutu Xóodzi Shkalneegi–illustrated by Tlingit woman Wanda Culp–earlier this month.

"As far as we know, this book is the first to be originally written in English and then translated into the Tlingit language," said Hayes, an English professor at the University of Alaska.

May 15, 2011

Dakota and Ojibwe doomed?

Working Group Says Dakota and Ojibwe Language Survival is QuestionableIn 2009, the Minnesota State Legislature established a volunteer working group to “develop a unified strategy to revitalize and preserve indigenous languages of the 11 federally recognized American Indian tribes in Minnesota.” That group turned in its report, Dakota and Ojibwe Language Revitalization in Minnesota in February.

The first key finding listed is that Dakota and Ojibwe languages are in “critical condition,” because the population of fluent and first speakers—who were raised speaking the language—is small to begin with and many don’t have teaching credentials.

The working group recognizes the importance of revitalizing American Indian languages because they are “more than grammar and vocabulary. They are inseparable from American Indian identity. Languages express, reflect, and maintain the connections of people to one another and to the world around them. They are shaped over millennia by communal experience, and they shape how a people come to know who they are and what is true, where they came from, where they live, and how the world around them works materially and spiritually.”

But the group fears that assaults on Native culture in general may mean it’s too late for the languages. They say the survival of Dakota and Ojibwe languages “remains a question. After centuries of assault, indigenous languages require heroic life-saving measures on many fronts.”

April 30, 2011

Wes Studi as language activist

Language Symposium Focuses on Preservation and Features Wes Studi“Weaving Indigenous Language Through Family, Education & Community” is the theme for the sixth Minnesota Indigenous Language Symposium, which will focus on programs working to preserve language and culture.

Wes Studi, the Cherokee actor, language activist and honorary board member of the Indigenous Language Institute, will be the keynote speaker on the first day of the event.

April 22, 2011

Rabbit and the Sticky Doll

NSU students present Cherokee play at symposium

By Tesina JacksonStudents of Northeastern State University’s Intermediate Cherokee II and Advanced Cherokee II classes normally present talks on a topic or theme at the school’s annual Symposium on the American Indian. But for this year’s symposium, held April 11-16, they presented a play in Cherokee.

“There was a number of students who indicated and said they would work and spend time putting on a play,” Wyman Kirk, NSU instructor of the Cherokee Language Degree Program, said. “So we identified the story. They did their characters line-by-line translation and then we met as a group. They had their lines reviewed by fluent Native speakers to adjust, correct and then we talked about, not just the script and what they had, but language ideas.”

The idea of a play was brought up at the beginning of the semester. The students decided on the Cherokee traditional story “ Jisdu Jujalesdi Anehldi” or “Rabbit and the Sticky Doll” and presented it as a puppet show at the symposium on April 14.

The story of the “Rabbit and the Sticky Doll” is a Cherokee tale about the animals finding themselves without water during a drought. They get together and build a well. All of the animals help except for rabbit, who sleeps while they work and claims he can gather water from dew drops.

April 21, 2011


Student performs Cherokee song at NSU symposium

By Tesina JacksonThroughout the Northeastern State University Annual Symposium on the American Indian, new ideas are presented and discussed by guests, instructors and students. This year was the first year a student presented a song she had written in Cherokee.

“The song is called ‘Jiwonihesdi’ and it’s about me learning my language,” Danielle Culp, NSU junior and former Miss Cherokee, said. “My mom is a speaker, it was her first language and when she married my dad, I didn’t have the opportunity to hear Cherokee in my home. And so I came to college and it was really important to me and so I wrote this song as showing the legacy that she’s passing on to me with the Cherokee language.”

April 15, 2011

Ojibwe Language Quiz Bowl

A Friendly Competition in Ojibwemowin

By Konnie LeMayIt is expected that about nine teams and 150 students from mainly Minnesota and Wisconsin will attend the event, hosted this year by Augsburg Indigenous Student Association.

During the fast-paced, timed tournament, the four-member teams won’t have too much time to get stuck on pondering. They must quickly answer questions about Ojibwe language definitions, pronunciations and translations. “The content is all what we cover in our classes,” Jones said.

The language bowl, said this year’s organizer Jennifer Simon who directs American Indian Student Services at Augsburg, helps to give students a goal and a focus for their studies. “They want to learn their language…this brings some intentionality to it.”

The language bowl is one tool used to engage students who rarely get to speak Ojibwe outside the classroom. Language tables, regular weekly gatherings where Ojibwemowin is spoken, often over a meal, have also blossomed.

Blackfoot language radio broadcasts

KBWG Brings Blackfoot Language Lessons to the Airwaves

By Stephanie TyrpakWhen a small radio station in Browning took to the airwaves over six years ago, the idea was to add programming that would be meaningful to the community. And in the past two weeks, 107.5 FM has launched a language class that airs four days a week.

In a one room radio station, Darrell Kipp leads a one hour Blackfoot language broadcast that could one day play around the world.

April 05, 2011

9th annual Oklahoma language fair

Native American Language Fair

By Keith TaylorThis morning more than 600 students showcased their Native American language skills in the largest language fair in the nation.

The two day event at the Sam Noble Museum in Norman, brings together as many as 25 different tribes and 23 native languages. Students compete in a variety of categories including spoken word, song, book, poster and more modern power point and film video categories.

The language fair brings students from Pre-K through 12th grade and from across the state of Oklahoma and other states.

The Ninth Annual Youth Language Fair continues Tuesday morning at the Sam Noble Museum from nine a.m. until 2 p.m.
Competitiveness and Culture at the University of Oklahoma Language Fair

By S.E. RuckmanIt’s hard to say whether the younger or the older students were sharper at the Ninth Annual Oklahoma Native American Youth and Language Fair on April 4-5. All age groups, elementary, high school, junior high and pre-K, showed up at the two-day event ready to rumble.

At stake was bragging rights for the first place trophies and the chance to strut their cultural stuff. Some groups were old hands at the fair while others were first timers. They showed up in traditional dress or matching T-shirts carrying props, drums or stickball sticks. Herded by teachers and parents, students split off into their categories including spoken languages (group and individual) song, book, poster and video, among others.

March 26, 2011

Google searchable in Cherokee

Google adds Cherokee syllabaryGoogle has added the Cherokee syllabary to its repertoire of searchable languages. Just like the many other languages Google supports, anyone who can read and write Cherokee can look up virtually anything in the World Wide Web.

Cherokee Nation translators worked side by side with Google employees to work through all the challenges of adding a new and very different language to their services. The 85-character syllabary, created by Sequoyah in the early 1800s, quickly made the majority of Cherokees literate and was adapted into the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix.

March 24, 2011

Luiseño cartridges for Nintendo games

Video games to help teach native language

By Deborah Sullivan BrennanHand-held video games may help Luiseno tribal members restore their traditional language, as tribal members and local professors devise a novel approach to teach the ancient language on Nintendo devices.

The Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians has provided a $50,000 grant to Cal State San Marcos' California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, and Palomar College's American Indian Studies Department, to create Luiseno language cartridges for the video games.

The cartridges will be distributed to members of the tribe's seven bands in Riverside and San Diego counties.

"What we're hoping to do is preserve the voices of current speakers for future generations, and to make learning the language fun, easy and accessible for all Luiseno people," said Joely Proudfit, a Cal State professor and director of the center.

We Still Live Here Âs Nutayuneân

Language Preservation Vision Shared for all Tribes

By Donna Laurent Caruso“If the Wampanoag could bring back their language without a single Native speaker, then anything is possible,” Anne Makepeace, the creator of a documentary about the revitalization of the Wôpanâak language said. “I think this film can serve as a cautionary tale for Native people whose languages are endangered and a model of inspiration for those working to preserve and revitalize their languages.”And:Makepeace’s film shows some of the original documents written in Wampanoag that Baird used to create her dictionary, grammar, and school lessons: deeds, letters, petitions, even notes in the margins of family bibles. Baird’s dedication is captured in the documentary; you may find yourself whispering your own first new phrases. The documentary shows how Baird learns new words using vowel and pronunciation charts, and dictionaries from one of the 40 Algonquian languages that are still spoken, such as Passamaquoddy. It also shows students in the classroom, and sometimes, learning “Wamp” does not look easy.

March 11, 2011

Bilingualism good for the brain

Bilingualism good for the brain, researchers say

The skill helps improve multitasking and prioritizing, and helps ward off early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, experts say.

By Amina Khan
[N]euroscience researchers are increasingly coming to a consensus that bilingualism has many positive consequences for the brain. Several such researchers traveled to this month's annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., to present their findings. Among them:

• Bilingual children are more effective at multi-tasking.

• Adults who speak more than one language do a better job prioritizing information in potentially confusing situations.

• Being bilingual helps ward off early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the elderly.

These benefits come from having a brain that's constantly juggling two—or even more—languages, said Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, who spoke at the AAAS annual meeting. For instance, a person who speaks both Hindi and Tamil can't turn Tamil off even if he's speaking to only Hindi users, because the brain is constantly deciding which language is most appropriate for a given situation.

This constant back-and-forth between two linguistic systems means frequent exercise for the brain's so-called executive control functions, located mainly in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain tasked with focusing one's attention, ignoring distractions, holding multiple pieces of information in mind when trying to solve a problem, and then flipping back and forth between them.

February 26, 2011

Sewing and speaking Meskwaki

Meskwaki Tribe Receives Grant for Sewing and Language Project

By Maria ScandaleInfluences of the modern world linger outside, but for two hours twice a week, mothers and girls are sitting with elder women in the Meskwaki Senior Center sewing traditional clothing and learning the Meskwaki language.

The Meskwaki Sewing Project has been recognized by the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities as worthy of supporting with a mini-grant.

February 18, 2011

Creek language in Challenge Bowl

Creek Nation adds language round to Challenge Bowl

By Lenzy Krehbiel-BurtonThe rooms at Trinity Baptist Church were filled with students Thursday testing their knowledge of Muscogee (Creek) Nation history, culture, current events and language at the 11th annual tribe-sponsored Challenge Bowl.

Similar to traditional academic bowl competitions, teams answer toss-up questions by ringing in on a buzzer system.

But this year, the Creek Nation's office that oversees kindergarten through 12th-grade tribal programming added a language round in which questions are asked in English and teams must answer in Creek to receive the points.

Individual students are limited in the number of times per match they can answer.
Below:  "Okemah Elementary School fifth-graders Kintv Deere (left) and NaTaiya Wilson, both 11, listen to instructions Thursday during a Challenge Bowl sponsored by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The number on Kintv's shirt is in honor of Martha Berryhill, the oldest Creek Nation tribal member, who died recently. The number was Berryhill's number on the Dawes Rolls." (Mike Simons/Tulsa World)

February 09, 2011

Inuit Language Week

Use It or Lose It:  Inuit Language Week in Full SwingThey were kicking off Inuit Language Week, or Uqausirmut Quviasuutiqarniq, which goes from February 7–11 and includes a host of activities throughout the territory.

It’s an attempt to reverse a decline in the use of the Inuit language in Nunavut homes, the territory’s press release said. Over the past 10 years it has dropped from 60 percent to 53 percent, prompting the languages minister and commissioner to challenge Nunavummiut “to reverse this trend, not only during Uqausirmut Quviasuutiqarniq but everyday,” the press release said.

Various activities are promoting the use of the language, including an Inuit Language Standardization Symposium from February 8–11 hosted by the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit (Inuit Language Authority) in Iqaluit. In addition, schools have received packages outlining Inuit Language activities, and a set of language posters is being launched. There’s also a contest for Nunavut government employees to submit an Inuktitut Word of the Day and win prizes.

February 05, 2011

Inuit views in Inuktitut film

Film shows Inuit views on climate change

By Mychaylo PrystupaWhile most academics publish research papers, geography professor Ian Mauro has taken a different tack--making documentary films.

Mauro's latest research project, titled Qapirangajuq--Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change is the world's first documentary on climate change as told by Inuit in their language.

Mauro is pioneering what he calls "video research"--using filmmaking techniques to find and publish scientific discoveries.

"We made a film and people are telling their own perspectives, and their own stories, and that really inverses the dominant way of doing research," Mauro said Thursday.
Below:  "Ian Mauro (left) and Zacharias Kunuk spent months in Nunavut communities to film Qapirangajuq--Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change." (Ian Mauro)

January 30, 2011

Documentary on reviving Wampanoag

We Still Live Here

An Interview with Anne Makepeace

By Matt Kettmann
Former Santa Barbara resident and Emmy Award winner Anne Makepeace returns to SBIFF with her latest documentary, We Still Live Here (Âs Nutayuneân), which is a perfect-for-PBS look at the Wampanoag people’s quest to revive their ancestors’ language. These New Englanders find help and inspiration in the oddest of places, and the viewer comes to quickly realize that the value of dead languages just might be infinite.

She recently answered some questions via email.

How did you find out about this revival?

I grew up in New England and, like most Americans, I had never heard of Wampanoag, did not know that they were “the Indians” who helped the Pilgrims to survive, and was completely unaware that any of these Indians still lived on their homelands in Massachusetts. Then, in 2006, I was hired by the American Experience series at WGBH to produce the first of a five-part series about Native Americans called “We Shall Remain.” My part was about the Wampanoag and the first English settlers in New England: the Pilgrims (and later Puritans) in 17th Century Massachusetts. It was while working on this project that I got to know Jessie Little Doe Baird, her family, and other members of the Wampanoag Nation. Learning about their history was a complete revelation to me, and I was amazed by Jessie’s story and the work the community was doing to bring back their language. When things fell apart with WGBH, I decided that the film I really wanted to make was the unprecedented story of the resurrection of the Wampanoag language.

What drew you personally to the material?

I have always been interested in Native Americans, and some of my films, notably Ishi the Last Yahi and Coming to Light, are on Native American subjects. Jessie’s story of resurrection, especially after learning about their devastating and largely unknown history, drew me so powerfully, partly I think because of my own background—I am descended from those Puritan settlers who co-opted Wampanaog lands or worse—and partly because of the intensely passionate dedication and commitment that Jessie and others have for bringing their language home.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

January 27, 2011

Revitalizing languages may backfire

Author Examines the Social Roots and Practical Implications of Language Preservation Efforts

By Abby MogollónThe author succinctly and with good humor critiques language revitalization efforts, even while she is an active and enthusiastic participant in state-sanctioned revitalization efforts. “Generally, researchers have assumed that revaluing heritage languages and their speakers will always have a positive effect on revitalization efforts,” Meek writes, “but in the case of Kaska, the opposite appears to be true. The goal of trying to re-create Kaska as a legitimate, revitalized language has led to the emergence of specialized roles marked by linguistic expertise, thus restricting the production of Kaska to those select few—in particular, university-trained linguists and bureaucrats—who are authorized to manufacture it.” (p. 134)

In her book, Meek raises several provocative discussion points when considering endangered language revitalization efforts:

  • The problem of marginalizing potential speakers

  • Languages that become a “language of the elders”

  • Why the media talks about “the death of languages” and what that means for Native languages

  • The rhetoric of “saving” Native languages, relegating Indigenous languages to that of an object

  • Meek does not just offer critique. She also suggests ways communities can work to maintain their languages. Here are just a few of her suggestions:

  • See the age of 40 as the new 2 (remove the assumption that language must be learned in youth)

  • Find ways for elders and new speakers to weave together different events and experiences into a tapestry of on-going interpretation, rather than fixed conversations of passing down historical information

  • Redefine what we consider “success” in language revitalization
  • January 22, 2011

    Cherokee language basketball teams

    Cherokee-speaking students form hoops teams

    By Craig HenryNo, this isn’t some run-of-the-mill basketball game. This game involves one of the Cherokee Language Immersion Program’s basketball teams. And just like the rest of the LIP, basketball is taught exclusively using the Cherokee language.

    “Everything goes hand-in-hand, and we’re just trying to provide more opportunities for every child at immersion,” said LIP Principal Holly Davis. “All of our activities are in Cherokee, and we hope to just expand on it yearly. We’re looking at something new to add every year.”

    The boys and girls teams are comprised of 19 students in third, fourth and fifth grades. Though the basketball program was formed in 2009, the 2010-11 season is the first the teams competed with area schools.

    “I think it’s a good outlet to use the language out in the community,” said Jeromie Hammer, LIP physical education coach, said. “It teaches the kids about competition, dedication. I think that it gives the language a little action.”

    January 21, 2011

    Inupiaq version of Rosetta Stone

    Natives team with software maker in language project

    By Kyle HopkinsThe North Slope Borough and Rosetta Stone software company plan to unveil a program this spring specially designed to teach the North Slope Inupiaq dialect, using the photos and voices of Inupiaq people recorded in Barrow.

    There are as few as 1,500 fluent speakers of Inupiaq in Alaska, estimates Fairbanks linguist Michael Krauss. Once, it was the primary language of the northern and northwest regions of the state.

    Barrow-born Edna MacLean, a former Inupiaq professor for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, spent two years working on the Inupiaq program. She translated thousands of words and phrases from English to the North Slope Inupiaq dialect of the Inuit language.

    The job is nearly done. Soon the program will be available to schools and households. Just in time for Inupiaq language experts like MacLean, 66.

    January 17, 2011

    Nanabush videos teach Ojibwe

    Walking and Talking with NanabushThe Ojibwe Cultural Foundation invites you to walk and talk with Nanabush. Nish Tales: Walking and Talking with Nanabush is a language learning and story sharing site for kids and adults wishing to learn Ojibwe. Nanabush’s humorous escapades and great adventures have entertained generations of Anishnaabe and helped preserve our language. Nish Tales: Walking and Talking with Nanabush is a web site created to do the same. Here we use the humourous adventures of Nanabush to help people learn some basic Ojibwe.

    There are two Nanabush stories now on the site: The Power of the Skunk and Nanabush Loses the Meat. The stories are presented as animated clips, text and audio files . All media is in a bilingual format for reading, listening and watching.

    More entertaining stories of Nanabush and more language learning content will be added in the coming months.

    Who Is Nanabush?

    Nanabush is the main character in many Ojibwe legends and is as old as the Ojibwe language itself. He was sent to teach the Anishinaabeg how to live. His mother was Anishinaabe-kwe and his father a spirit. Being half spirit he had amazing abilities. But being half human, he had the virtues and flaws that people have and often could not control his humanly wants and needs.

    Nanabush could be selfish or generous; cowardly or brave; caring or spiteful; always curious and mischievous and often his own worst enemy. Sometimes he daringly saved the Anishinaabek, other times he caused them everlasting hardship. Nanabush walked all over Turtle Island. His many humorous escapades and great adventures explained the natural world, entertained generations of Anishnaabe and helped preserve the Ojibwe language. He remains an important figure in Anishnaabe culture. Nish Tales: Walking and Talking with Nanabush looks at the humourous and fun side of some of his adventures.
    Comment:  The videos use limited, cartoon-style animation. The watercolor backgrounds are nice, as are the sound effects and music. The tales are cute and short enough to hold one's attention.

    All in all, I'd say these videos are an effective teaching tool.

    January 16, 2011

    Mohawk on the Nintendo

    Embracing Technology to Teach Native Language

    By Vincent SchillingRoss talked about the technological offerings by the tribe to help tribal members learn Mohawk, specifically, the Can 8 online learning system, the Nintendo DSi and Rosetta Stone Mohawk language software.

    The Can 8 computerized language system, which was created by the Akwesasne Economic Development Agency, a nonprofit organization that delivers employment and training services to the Mohawk community, “an interactive, multimedia tool used extensively for the instruction of most languages around the world and a virtual language learning system that provides students and community members alike with the ability to learn and reinforce their own language learning at their own comfort level.”

    Ross sees Can 8, a program that teaches her grandchildren, as “really amazing.”

    January 15, 2011

    Navajo-language radio stations

    Riding the waves:  Navajo listeners, broadcasters use radio to preserve language

    By Alysa LandryHighly publicized and expensive efforts to preserve and revitalize the Navajo language are widespread on the sprawling, 27,000-square-mile reservation, yet one of the most ubiquitous modes of preservation also is one of cheapest.

    Anyone with a battery-powered radio can listen to any of a handful of Navajo language stations that cover the reservation with sound waves.

    Locals tune in to KNDN, the Navajo language radio station based in Farmington. They also can listen to AM stations KTNN, out of Window Rock, Ariz.; KGAK, out of Gallup; or FM station KTDB, out of Pine Hill.
    Below:  "KNDN host Tommie Yazzi, long-time host George Werito and station manager Kerwin Gober stand in the broadcasting room at KNDN last week." (James B. Hale/The Daily Times)

    January 07, 2011

    Multimedia Ojibwe translations

    New online resources offer Ojibwe, English translations

    Shared Vision member Michael Meuers is “absolutely psyched” about what was unveiled Monday.

    By Anne Williams
    Shared Vision member Michael Meuers is “absolutely psyched” about what was unveiled Monday.

    Ojibwe translations for nearly 100 English phrases common to Northern Minnesota are now available online and on campus at Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College.

    The multimedia materials, which include paper form and audio clips, are part of a collaborative effort between Shared Vision and BSU. Shared Vision is an organization dedicated to improving relations between American Indians and non-Indians in the community.

    A poster designed by BSU’s Office of Communications and Marketing provides a list of English words and their Ojibwe equivalents in nine categories such as “Expressions,” “Trees” and “North Country.”

    January 05, 2011

    Eyak word of the week

    Help preserve the Eyak language by visiting new websiteThe Eyak Language Project's "Word of the Week" went live online Jan. 1 as part of an effort to preserve the indigenous Southcentral Alaska language whose last native speaker, Cordova-born Chief Marie Smith Jones, died in 2008. The Word of the Week gives everyone a chance to participate, says the homepage for the project, directed by Anchorage filmmaker Laura Bliss Spaan. "Whether you learn a few words that mean something to you or endeavor to become fluent, your efforts will mean that this irreplaceable way of speaking and thinking about the world will never be lost."

    The first featured word is "iishuh," the Eyak equivalent of "hello."