A rule change implemented this year by the state Education Department allows American Indian tribes and schools in Oklahoma to address the shrinking numbers of people who are fluent speakers in their native languages.
The rule allows the state Education Department to grant an annual certification to American Indian language instructors to teach tribal languages in public schools.
American Indian languages long have been recognized as an important legacy in Oklahoma, said Desa Dawson, director of world language for the Education Department.
Oklahoma has 39 federally recognized American Indian tribes, and all the American Indian languages spoken in Oklahoma are considered endangered, Dawson said.
The new rule, adopted this year under legislative rule change procedures, allows competent instructors to teach under the supervision of a regularly certified teacher.
Two Sauk language instructors from the Sac and Fox Nation are certified through the new process, Dawson said, and one applied from the Creek Nation. They join several other instructors who were approved previously or were adjunct instructors from tribes such as Choctaw, Chickasaw, Kiowa, and Osage.
Dawson said that before the certification rule change, instructors often taught elective classes, and students were not able to receive world language credit for graduation. Under the new regulation, students can receive graduation credit, she said.
The Sauk language comes from the Algonquian language family. Other languages in this family are the Cree, Ojibwa, Shawnee, Delaware, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne. The two closest relatives of Sauk are the Mesquakie and Kickapoo languages. Once spoken in Michigan, Illinois and Kansas, Sauk is still the traditional language of the Sac and Fox of Oklahoma. For more information about the Sac and Fox Language Department, go email@example.com or call (918) 968-3526.