Native Village Youth and Education News

April 1, 2009 Issue 196 Volume 2

Native Languages Project Wins Award
by Reznetnews staff
Condensed by Native Village

Wisconsin: Jason Stein has won the Freedom Forum/American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity. His winning project, "Down to a Whisper," explores the fate of five Native languages in Wisconsin.

"The five surviving Indian languages of Wisconsin Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Oneida are quietly suffering from the same pressures of assimilation pushing languages around the world toward extinction," Stein wrote.

Stein's interactive project recommended several steps including:
Immersion schools
More mentoring
Revival of a state program that helped pay for teaching Native languages in tribal schools.
Expand work by University of Wisconsin System professors to help tribes document and record the knowledge of their elders.

Stein's series appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal in June, 2008. In September, Wisconsin's state school superintendent proposed that the state revive a discontinued state program for American Indian languages.

Ho-Chunk educator Andrew Thudercloud supports Stein's work.  "There's a story that we have that we were given this language by God, and as such, this language is considered to be sacred," he said.  "And I was told in this story that when our language is gone, the world will end.

"We see that our language is disappearing. Our beliefs are disappearing ... if we do not keep our language, we're going to exist as Ho-Chunks in name only."\

Tribal leaders, linguists and state officials offer suggestions to help save Wisconsin's native languages.

Start or expand more "immersion" schools that teach tribal students mostly in their traditional languages. School districts near reservations should consider helping tribes start immersion charter schools.

Start or expand programs that pair an elder native speaker with a young learner who is paid to do intensive study and become a fluent language teacher.

Revive a now-defunct state program that once helped pay schools for teaching native students their tribal language.
Continue and expand efforts by the University of Wisconsin to help tribes document and record their elders' knowledge.

Revise the federal No Child Left Behind law to remove obstacles tribes face in starting and expanding  immersion schools.
 Continue and expand federal grants that fund the most innovative tribal language programs.

Share effective methods of preserving languages, such as immersion schools and mentoring programs, among  state tribes.

Leverage technology. Tribal language workers already use podcasts, language CDs and  voice-activated, handheld digital translators.   But use of technology remains uneven across tribes.

Down to a Whisper
View, hear, read, and learn more about the Memoniee, Ojibwe, and Ho-Chunk languages and culture. - 24k -


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