August 31, 2012

Arizona to certify Native language teachers

Arizona Adopts Native American Language Teacher Certification PolicyA new policy will enable certified Native language speakers to teach their Native languages in Arizona classrooms.

“These Native American languages are in danger of becoming extinct. It is imperative that we work to support Native American communities in their efforts to preserve their languages through the generations,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal in a press release.

Of the 22 tribal governments in the state, the Navajo Nation is already participating, and others are drafting proficiency assessments to take part.

The Native American Language Certification Policy was developed by the Arizona Department of Education and Native American tribes and was unanimously adopted by the State Board of Education.

August 15, 2012

Reinvigorating language through radio

Radio Free Cherokee: Endangered Languages Take to the Airwaves

How indigenous tongues facing extinction are finding new life on community radio stationsLoris Taylor, the CEO and president of Native Public Media, still has the scars on her hands from when she was caught speaking Hopi in school and got the sharp end of the ruler as a result. "They hit so hard, the flesh was taken off," she remembers. "Deep down inside, it builds some resistance in you."

Now, she's at the forefront of a movement to revive dead and dying languages using an old medium: radio. As CEO and president of Native Public Media, she's lobbied the FCC and overseen projects to get increasingly rare tongues like Hopi onto airwaves so that Native Americans can keep their ancestors' ways of speaking alive—and pass those ways of speaking to new generations.

"At a certain time, people thought 'We live in a white man's world and have to change our language to make it.' But now we see how wrong that was." Similar efforts are taking place worldwide. In Ireland, Dublin's youthful Top-40 Raidio Ri-Ra and Belfast's eclectic indie Raidio Failte have been broadcasting entirely in Irish for several years. In Washington, D.C. earlier this month, indigenous radio producers from Peru, Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, and a handful of other countries gathered for the "Our Voices on the Air" conference, organized by the 40-year-old nonprofit Cultural Survival and the Smithsonian's Recovering Voices program.

Following centuries of oppression that have marginalized minority languages, radio represents a modest but surprisingly promising way to reinvigorate the traditions keeping those languages alive. In the Maori community of New Zealand, for example, the combination of 21 radio stations and rigorous early childhood immersion programs have brought Maori-languages speakers from an all-time low of 24,000 in the 1980s to 131,000 in 2006, according to Mark Camp, deputy executive director at Cultural Survival.

"It's not a silver bullet, but it's an important piece," Camp says of radio. "If you don't have some sort of media—and radio is the best in our opinion—to counterbalance the predominant commercial media that is all in Spanish or in English, it makes language less of a modern, living thing. It becomes something that you might do with your grandparents."
Below:  "Arizona's KUYI 88.1 broadcasts in Hopi to approximately 9,000 people." (KUYI)

August 14, 2012

Documentary about Tewa language

Documentary Follows Native Students Learning and Preserving Tewa Language

By Vincent SchillingIn November 2009, Santa Fe Preparatory School in Santa Fe, New Mexico sent out a newsletter announcing a self-study curriculum in which Native teenagers would study the Tewa language with the help of a mentor. When producer/director Aimée Broustra heard about it she decided to make a documentary.

“I knew this would be a story of inspiration and hope and it was a story that needed to be told,” Broustra said during a radio interview on Talk 1260 KTRC.

“The teenagers in The Young Ancestors are motivated and enthusiastic about learning because they understand the symbiotic relationship between language and culture; that one cannot survive for too long without the other,” Broustra says on the documentary’s website, “In a broader context the documentary explores the burgeoning movement by Native Americans to revitalize their native languages in tribes throughout America.”
And:In the film, the Native youth, who are all Tewa, spend hours learning the Tewa language with mentor Laura Kaye Eagles, a seventh grade literature teacher at Santa Fe Prep. The pilot program is administered with the Indigenous Language Institute to help revitalize Native languages. The students get language credit for studying Tewa, as opposed to studying French or Spanish.

“We’re Native American, that’s who we are and we’re proud of it. We have that tradition backing us up,” Jordan Naranjo says in the film.

“I could hear my ancestors before but now that I am learning the language, I feel connected with my ancestors in everything I do,” Jeremy Montoya says.
Below:  "Native students study Tewa with mentor Laura Kaye Eagles, a seventh grade literature teacher at Santa Fe Preparatory School in Santa Fe, New Mexico."

August 03, 2012

Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary

Tribe Revives Language on Verge of Extinction

By Kirk JohnsonLocal native languages teeter on the brink of oblivion all over the world as the big linguistic sweepstakes winners like English, Spanish or Mandarin ride a surging wave of global communications.

But the forces that are helping to flatten the landscape are also creating new ways to save its hidden, cloistered corners, as in the unlikely survival of Siletz Dee-ni. An American Indian language with only about five speakers left—once dominant in this part of the West, then relegated to near extinction—has, since earlier this year, been shouting back to the world: Hey, we’re talking. (In Siletz that would be naa-ch’aa-ghit-’a.)

“We don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Bud Lane, a tribe member who has been working on the online Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary for nearly seven years, and recorded almost all of its 10,000-odd audio entries himself. In its first years the dictionary was password protected, intended for tribe members.

Since February, however, when organizers began to publicize its existence, Web hits have spiked from places where languages related to Siletz are spoken, a broad area of the West on through Canada and into Alaska. That is the heartland of the Athabascan family of languages, which also includes Navajo. And there has been a flurry of interest from Web users in Italy, Switzerland and Poland, where the dark, rainy woods of the Pacific Northwest, at least in terms of language connections, might as well be the moon.
Below:  "Bud Lane, a tribe member, has worked on the online Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary for nearly seven years. Stabilization of the language is the goal now, but he hopes to create a pool of speakers so it will not go away." (Thomas Patterson for The New York Times)