It was more like ten or even more tribes down there these past two days at the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes Native Language Summit in Durant, Oklahoma. It wasn’t life changing but it was up there. It may become life changing. I don’t know.
I had chills up my back every ten minutes or so for the first day for all kinds of reasons as it – where I was – sunk in. I cried a lot and I don’t know why. A couple of times I just had to get up and walk out of the building. I knew that I was into something very important.
Actually, important is not the right word but it will have to do. The right word is something that would convey the idea, “I don’t know why I am here but there is something very powerful going on in this place.”
There is an immediate need for action here and it will concern all of us. As Josh Hinson, Director of the Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program, said to me when I first arrived, “This is a fire.”
There was one group of teachers representing the Sauk nation. There are four remaining living speakers of Sauk language. There was another tribe – Euchee, that was represented by only one teacher. Euchee is so small that it is not even be recognized by the U.S. government and therefore receives no federal funding. It has five remaining speakers.
The last few pure native speakers are very old. Two of the Saulk elders were there. The teachers I worked with are apprenticed to the last speakers three hours a day. Those teachers have various degrees of command of the language, from 65% to 85%. My job is simple – to help all involved to learn ways to make the language comprehensible so that the language and therefore the culture can avoid going to sleep.
I apologize but this will be the only topic here for a few days or longer. The other stuff will have to wait.* Right now I have some good stuff from Bryce that will have to wait. I have learned that I can’t overload the blog. People complain when that happens.
It is good timing for this thread, then. Most of us are ending up the year and needing a break to think about something else. We can start our threads about gearing up for next year later. Maybe we will see each other in St. Louis to do work.
One thing is certain. I’m going back there. And I’m trying to get a few of the apprentices to St. Louis for more training. You will want to hear their beautiful and ancient language. More on this later. There is a lot to say. I’ll try to say it properly. It concerns us all.
OMANOMPAAT BÍLLI’YA – Our Language is Forever (the Chickasaw Nation)
* except for Robert’s thread on assessment. We must – by the end of the summer – have a clearly stated grading policy that is largely based on the socially reciprocal piece. There are 40 comments on that thread by Frank, Nathan, Jen and others. That is not enough. And we can’t make Robert do all the work on this. The way I see it is that we need to start the year with a fairly short (or they won’t read it) statement to kids and parents about how they are being graded in a way that completely aligns with the ACTFL proficiency guidelines (that’s the new part) and that requires them to show up (as per my rules) for class or be graded down no matter what their academic power rating is. Then we all have much better years. At least that is what I am trying to define as the goal. Robert does that reflect your own thoughts about the product we want from this thread?
CI and the Research (cont.)
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could
3 thoughts on “Sauk Language Revitalization 1”
Thanks for the breather. This sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
… we need to start the year with a fairly short … statement to kids and parents about how they are being graded in a way that completely aligns with the ACTFL proficiency guidelines … and that requires them to show up … . Then we all have much better years. At least that is what I am trying to define as the goal. Robert does that reflect your own thoughts about the product we want from this thread?
Yes, Ben that reflects very well what I’m trying to do. After reading Alfie Kohn and reflecting I abandoned “traditional homework” completely and started working toward Standards-Based Grading. As I indicated in an earlier comment, the issue I have is that the traditional skills-based model leaves out some very important elements of language acquisition. That’s why I like the focus on the modes of communication. They include elements that are behavioral but neither citizenship nor work habits. Quite frankly, I can foresee a student getting Advanced on interpretive communication but only Satisfactory on work habits or citizenship. While these tend to be interrelated, they are not identical, nor do they have a 1:1 correspondence.
I too attended the Inter-Tribal conference in Durant. I have made it a point to find money somehow from somewhere to be there the last three years. The first year I heard with my heart the passion of Jacob and Josh and another that wasn’t there this year Cedric. Each works to establish some kind of fluency in their tribal language before The Elders are gone. Their work has been inspirational to my own quest to immerse myself in the language of my nation. Imagine my surprise when they told me that my beloved Elder (the last speaker in my community and the one who had written copious amounts of literature to revive our language in N. Florida) had inspired them.
The Elders and a few of their children are all that are left in most nations to speak with fluency. My own community has only one Elder left whose first language was Mvskoke (though in Okla. and S. Fl. there are still several whose first language is Mvskoke). Some nations have no Elders with a tribal first language. Some have reconstructed their language through linguistic work and tribal documents from generations gone by.
One of my Elders who has gone on described the language as her identity. This is a strong cord in Native communities. Without the language there is not an identity–a connection to our ancestors and the path to our future. Knowing your language provides you connection and strength to continue moving your nation forward.