American Indian language program receives $90K grant
BY DARLA SLIPKE •
Published: June 10, 2011
/articleid/3575824/1/pictures/1439767"> From left, Tracey Moore, Ashley Lober and Rebekah HorseChief participate in a 2010 workshop called Breath of Life - Silent No More, hosted at the University of Oklahoma. The program was designed to give people tools they need to revitalize American Indian languages that are endangered. Organizers recently received a National Science Foundation grant to continue the program. PHOTO PROVIDED
Oklahoma has the highest density of indigenous languages in the U.S., according to the project. Some of those languages were originally spoken in the area and others came to the area when tribes from the East were forced to move onto reservations in what is now the state.
Oklahoma has about 40 American Indian languages and 11 language families, which can be as different as English is from Chinese, Linn said. She said all of those languages are endangered. Many younger generations have shifted to speaking English, Linn said.
During the workshop, linguists train participants how to use research materials and find resources.
Linn hopes the program will help tribes and linguists develop lasting partnerships. Eventually, she would like the program to become self-supporting.
Eight people from three tribes — Natchez, Osage and Otoe-Missouria — participated in the first workshop. Linn hopes more will attend next year.
Hopper, 28, is the youth leadership director for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. A big part of the tribe’s culture is language, Hopper said. Yet many people, aside from a few elders, don’t know the language.
Hopper knew a few words before attending the 2010 workshop. Now he posts words around his home for his own children, ages 7 and 2, to see. He also incorporates language into youth programs he organizes.
“If we don’t get the youth involved now, then it will be gone forever,” Hopper said.