Coining New Words Key to Revitalizing Native American Languages

WASHINGTON — It was a thrilling find for a then-graduate student in linguistics: While conducting research in Jesuit archives in Quebec in 1999, Michael McCafferty discovered a previously unknown manuscript - a dictionary of the Myaamia-Illinois language, handwritten by a 17th century Jesuit missionary. Comprising some 22,000 entries, the manuscript has played a key role [...]

How do you say “smartphone” in Lakota?

“Adorkable.” “Manspreading.” “Frenemies.” Coining new words to fit modern needs is a practice that goes back to the beginning of language; Shakespeare, for example, is said to have introduced somewhere from 1700 to 3200 new words. Peter Hill may not be Shakespeare, but he has cataloged around 3000 new words in the indigenous Lakota language. [...]

Keepers of a lost culture

Beulah Timothy is a ghost of history. So is her brother, Richard Snake, and their childhood friend, Alma Burgoon. Their home is the Delaware Nation Reserve, 3,000 acres of rich farmland 150 miles southwest of Toronto. Small, well-kept homes surrounded by corn fields dot the reserve, which is crisscrossed by gravel roads and bordered by [...]

How This Native Educator Is Keeping A Tribal Language Alive

On the Omaha Native American reservation in northeastern Nebraska, one educator is working hard to keep the tribal language alive by helping kids to learn it in school. Vida Woodhull Stabler is the director of the Omaha (or “Umonhon” in the tribe’s language) culture center at Umonhon Nation Public Schools in Macy, Nebraska. She has [...]

Wisconsin School Works To Keep Native American Languages Alive Around The World

In Hayward, Wisconsin, a program is working to preserve Native American language and culture in the state and across the world. Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute is an immersion school where the Ojibwe language isn't only taught, it's the language used to teach all core classes. Waadookodaading means "a place where people help each other," and [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:21:45+00:00October 6th, 2017|Education, Native American languages, Wisconsin|0 Comments

Reclaiming A Lost Tribal Language: How, and at What Cost?

Growing up, I spent summers going to the Turtle Project, which was a camp for Aquinnah Wampanoag kids run by our tribe. Aquinnah is a small town on the far end of Martha’s Vineyard. Every year the island swells with seasonal tourists flocking to its idyllic beaches and picturesque towns. Although I never considered myself [...]

Native American Two Spirit Fights to Keep Tribe’s Language Alive

The ancestral home of DeLesslin "Roo" George-Warren's tribe is along the banks of the Catawba River, near the modern border of North Carolina and South Carolina. Thousands of years before first contact with Europeans, they called themselves Ye Iswąˀ, or "people of the river." When George-Warren pulled up to his sister's house in Rock Hill, [...]

By |2017-05-08T22:38:25+00:00May 9th, 2017|Language, Native American languages|0 Comments

Online classes, modern textbooks helping revitalize Cherokee language

Recent research focusing on Native American languages and how they are taught is helping revitalize the Cherokee language, in part, through online courses and modern textbooks developed by the Cherokee Nation. Using these updated methods, the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program continues to have a far-reaching impact, with up to 3,000 students taking online courses [...]

How to revive Massachusetts’ first language

In a classroom on the main floor of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal resources center, a dozen or so toddlers are speaking a language that until a few decades ago had no living speakers. This is the language of the Wampanoag Nation, the first language of Massachusetts. The fact that these children are learning it is [...]

Last fluent Mandan speaker dies, puts language at risk

The death of Edwin Benson, of Twin Buttes on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in west-central North Dakota, who was the last living soul who could fluently speak Mandan could bring the possible extinction of a language that expressed the unique experiences and perceptions of a once-thriving tribe of Plains Indians. Benson died Friday at [...]