April 26, 2013

Lakota Language Immersion School

Addressing the Lakota language crisis

By Christina RoseWith only 2 to 5 percent of children currently speaking Lakota, Thomas Short Bull, president of the Oglala Lakota College, said the time has come to raise the alarm.

As the day begins at the Lakota Language Immersion School, a young boy passes an abalone bowl of sage to each child sitting on the floor in a circle. Children from kindergarten through third grade gather for the morning ceremony with prayers, songs, and a short discussion of things to know and remember.

Didier Dupont, school coordinator, described the importance of the process. He said, “We have a student whose father was shipped to Afghanistan. We remind everybody to remember her dad in their prayers. During the prayer, listen to the songs in your heart, help each other be good, listen... and the language is there.”

The children in the immersion school do everything that children do in school everywhere; they learn math, science, language arts, gym, music, art and more. The difference is that it is all done in the Lakota language. The academic standards are comparable to other schools, but the school has its own curriculum, designed by the Education Department of the Oglala Lakota College. “We are maintaining a compliance with most of the State standards, but as a private school we don't have to,” DuPont said.

"Where Are Your Keys?"

Language Revival: Interview with Khelsilem Rivers By: Thipiziwin YoungThree years ago I became aware of a language revival method called “Where Are Your Keys?” This dramatically altered my vision on how to become fluent and how to reverse the decline of my ancestral language. It was especially important given the context of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim—we have half a dozen fluent speakers left in the world. This is a situation many Indigenous communities face as it is predicted 500 of the world’s languages will go extinct in the next 25 years.

The “Where Are Your Keys?” method though focuses on fluency, rapid language acquisition, visual/auditory/kinesthetic learning styles, and incorporating hand-actions/hand-signs as an aid for memory recall. It has developed a pattern language called “techniques” that are simple but complex so that we can teach people how to teach people. “Language revitalization has two main issues. First is we have no new generations of speakers being raised with the language. The second is that we aren’t creating enough new teachers fast enough.” says Where Are Your Keys? Founder Evan Gardner. Where Are Your Keys? has set out to find a way to solve these two issues. I’ve used the techniques and methods for 3 years and achieved considerable success. There is still more work to do, but it’s on the path towards fluency and full blown language reawakening.

April 18, 2013

"What Should We Put in the Dictionary?"

Play on words: Scholar mulls entries for Native dictionary

By Stacy PrattHow do you say “texting” in Cherokee? Which letters do you use to spell words in an indigenous language that has never been written? Which words go into a dictionary, and who decides?

These were some of the questions discussed in Dr. Pamela Munro’s closing keynote address, “Documenting Native Languages: What Should We Put in the Dictionary?” The presentation was part of the Indigenous Languages Documentation and Revitalization Seminar at the 41st annual Symposium on the American Indian at NSU Friday evening.

Munro was in Tahlequah as the guest scholar for the Oklahoma Workshop on Native Languages, which took place Saturday and Sunday. She is a Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of California-San Diego and the co-author, with Catherine Willmond, of the first Chicksaw language textbook, “Let’s Speak Chickasaw: Chikashshanompa’ Kilanompoli’,” winner of the 2010 Leonard Bloomfield Book Award. She has also published dictionaries and grammar books of the Mohave, Cahuilla, Kawaiisu, Wolof and San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec languages, as well as many other articles and books on languages and linguistics.
And:Munro’s presentation focused on the preliminary questions that must be answered in the beginning of a dictionary’s creation. Some questions, such as which words should be included, were obvious. Others, such as “What counts as a word?” were puzzles more likely to be enjoyed by linguists than the general dictionary user.

But words and spelling are not the only factors involved, Munro said. Human elements also face both writers and users of dictionaries, especially when it comes to dictionaries of indigenous languages spoken by few people.

“What about words that some people don’t want to see in the dictionary?” Munro asked.

April 16, 2013

Tribal college partners with immersion school

Fort Belknap Reservation, White Clay Language is Spoken

By Matt RemleFort Belknap Reservation is the only place in the world where the White Clay language is spoken. In addition to the uniqueness of the language, the White Clay Immersion School is unique because it is based at a tribal college: Aaniiih Nakoda College. Over the past 40 years, the tribal college movement has led the fight for educational self-determination among Indian people. The creation of tribal college-immersion school partnerships represents the next important movement for Indian education. White Clay Immersion School K-8 school on the campus of Aaniiih Nakoda College has established the precedent for this innovative model.

This unique and innovative partnership serves as a model for other American Indian communities faced with the impending loss of Native language(s) and unsatisfactory learning experiences for their children within the local public school system. In this way, the school’s benefits will extend far beyond the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and serve as a model for indigenous communities across the United States and throughout the world.

April 11, 2013

Inuktitut becomes official language

Aboriginal Language Gets Official Status in Nunavut, CanadaAs of April 1, Inuktitut became an official language of Nunavut, putting it on par with English and French in the territory.

“This level of statutory protection for an aboriginal language is unprecedented in Canada,” said the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Culture and Heritage in an April 2 news release.

The passage of the Nunavut Official Languages Act has been five years in the making. This act takes the place of the Northwest Territories Official Languages Act, which recognized only English and French as official languages. The older act did give “a lesser set of rights to seven aboriginal languages, including Inuktitut,” according to Uqausivut, a comprehensive language plan. But, as the plan points out, “This does not reflect the realities of Nunavut, where a majority of people speak neither English nor French as their first language, but a single Aboriginal language.”

April 05, 2013

11th annual Oklahoma language fair

Native American Youth Language Fair has record attendance

By Susan ShannonDr. Mary Linn is the assistant curator for Native Languages at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma. This past week the 11th annual Native American Youth Language Fair took place at the Sam Noble Museum.

Dr. Mary Linn has been one of the driving forces behind the Native Youth Language Fair and remembers those early years. “I never dreamed, well I dreamed, I really wanted... I could envision a day when there was so many kids and that they were really using their languages in so many new and creative ways.

"That’s what I wanted. But at first it was hard to envision that there would be that kind of enthusiasm with the younger kids because it did take a while for people, for younger kids to really feel comfortable I think. So when I first started working in Oklahoma in the early 1990's, the language teachers… that was they're biggest concern, that the children did not want to learn the language. They felt that there wasn't the interest with the youth. I don't think that’s the problem at all, it’s like this big snowball rolling down the hill and it’s so big now I don't think it can be stopped. And it’s because of the children, it’s because of the youth. If they want to learn the language they are going to learn it, they're going to find ways to learn it. So I'm really...enthused. And as I said I could dream about it but I think that it’s surpassed my dreams.”

With an all-time high of 921 registered students coming to the Language Fair, that came out to 446 live performance or submissions of posters, books, comic book, poetry and essays, all using native language, which all had to be viewed either prior to the Fair or at the Fair.
Below:  "Chickasaw Nation students perform."