March 18, 2012

Pauma language preservation project

Language preservation helps American Indian students stick with college

By Marisa AghaEducators say that confronting cultural differences is one of the challenges facing American Indian students in higher education. CSU San Marcos, which counts about 40 tribes in its service area, has launched a new California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center aimed at strengthening relationships between the tribes and the campus. The center's ultimate goal is to boost the retention and graduation rates of American Indian students statewide.

Among the center's first efforts is a language preservation project with the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians in northern San Diego County, made possible by a $40,000 gift from the tribe. Through the project, staff members and students like Murphy have gone to the Pauma reservation to collect photographs and record the native language once predominantly spoken by tribal members.

Then they uploaded the photos and recordings onto cartridges as songs, images, prayers, quizzes and stories, and distributed the cartridges to families on the reservation for use on a Nintendo DSi. A picture of a big brown bear, for instance, appears with the Luiseño word for bear, "hunwut."

The project helps reinforce students' ties to their tribe and ignites academic and technological curiosity, said Joely Proudfit, the center's director and an associate professor at the university.
Below:  "Joely Proudfit, right, who teaches at CSU San Marcos, shows Cheryl Zohm, left, and Cathy Deveers how to use a language program on a Nintendo device during a Luiseño Language Preservation Project workshop at the tribal hall on the Pauma Indian Reservation in the Pauma Valley near Fallbrook." (Sandy Huffaker/Special to The Bee)

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