Via Cherokee tribes work to keep language alive for new generations

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina are working to preserve the Cherokee language for future generations.

Only about 3,000 Cherokee Nation citizens speak the language on a regular basis, language program manager Roy Boney Jr. told The Wall Street Journal. That’s less than 1 percent of the tribal population.

“No one under 50 is fluent in Cherokee anymore,” Boney told the paper.

The Eastern Band, a much-smaller tribe, counts upwards of 400 fluent speakers, or less than 3 percent of the population. A successful immersion school, though, is helping to turn those numbers around and a tribal member and a tribal employee have developed software to teach the language to others.

“If their methods were so good, why do we keep losing the language?” tribal member John Standingdeer Jr. told The Journal, referring to other methods that he believes have failed.

Read the entire article in the Wall Street Journal, here.

Via Learn Your Language: Lakota Summer Institute Coming Up

The 10thannual Lakota Summer Institute will be held June 6 to 24 at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

“For me, this was a spiritual journey which I will never forget,” Rick Williams, a 2015 LSI participant, told the Tribal College Journal.

Hundreds of Lakota learners and educators have attended LSI in the past.

Alli Moran is a three-year LSI attendant who practices Lakota at home. “When I was 10 everything began to come together. I began to understand what it means being a Native woman and the importance of Lakota language and culture… I love it here. I love seeing everyone come together and we all have a common cause, which is to learn and speak the language.”

For more information, click the links below:

Read what other past participants have to say here.

Registration is free and open now at

Via Indian Country Today: Technology Helps Teach Navajo in New Ways

An excerpt:

Learning a new language can be hard, especially when the language is as scarce and complicated as the Navajo language.

Aresta La Russo, a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona, has taught Navajo since 2010. Over the years, La Russo said she has seen technology improve the way she teaches students and how their access to software and apps outside the classroom help them grasp the old language.

“I think with technology and the Navajo language, I think they go hand and hand pretty well,” La Russo said.

Alray Mariano, a junior at the University of Arizona, is taking La Russo’s class. He said he uses the Internet at home to improve his skills.

“The Diné College published a website dedicated to learning the Navajo language of how to structure sentences and how to use pictures to describe what is going on in a sentence,” Mariano said. “It’s very helpful in a way that when I go home, I can use the website (to) pronounce the words and learn how to structure the sentence.”

To read the entire, click here.

North Dakota storyteller receives major artistic honor

FLASHER, N.D. – Mary Louise Defender Wilson has received many honors and awards in her 85 years.

But the Dakotah and Hidatsa traditionalist and storyteller said she was surprised to learn she had received a $50,000 United States Artists fellowship, one of the most prestigious arts fellowships in the country.

“Honors and recognition have been a part of my life, and those are the blessings for my efforts,” she said. “It was my thinking that there would not be any more, and I was grateful for the past honors. It was a wonderful surprise to receive the phone call from Meg Leary of the USA office that I was named a fellow. I never thought that I would be honored in my 85th year, and I cried tears of joy.”

Defender Wilson is the first North Dakotan to receive the fellowship and the first person in the nation to receive it in storytelling, said Troyd Geist, folklorist with the North Dakota Council on the Arts.

“Mary Louise is a North Dakota treasure and with her most recent recognition is solidified as a national treasure,” he said.

As a young child growing up on the Standing Rock reservation, she would walk with her grandfather See the Bear to herd sheep, and he would tell her stories about places, plants and animals in the Wicheyena dialect of the Dakotah Sioux language.

“The stories I tell, I first heard them in the language of the people,” she said. “It has been my thinking that I have to do something to honor him and the others who told me the stories.”

Defender Wilson, of Flasher, N.D., plans to use the fellowship money to preserve native dialects by visiting Dakotah and Lakotah Sioux communities where Wicheyena, Isanti and Teton are spoken to record buffalo stories in those languages.

To read the entire article, click here.

Guest Post from TEDNA Board Member Kerry Venegas on California AB 163 and Teacher Credentialling

Kerry Venegas is the Director of the Tribal Education Department for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and is providing an update on California AB 163, which expands Native teaching credential authorization for Tribes that passed as AB 544 in 2009.

AB 163 is still in the legislative process, but doesn’t seem to have any major roadblocks. Even the teacher unions have endorsed it. The great thing about this bill is that a teacher who already holds the Native Language credential could add on the culture credential, with tribal authorization, instead of having to go through the process again. And people seeking the credential for the first time could do the Native Language credential, or the culture credential, or both.

It does contain specific language about training for teachers credentialed under this section to receive professional development training in teaching methods in addition to tribally endorsed language and/or culture/history, but leaves it pretty much in the Tribes hands. Specifically, “Upon agreement by the tribe, a tribe recommending a candidate for an American Indian languages-culture language-culture credential shall develop and administer a technical assistance program guided by the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. To the extent feasible, the program shall be offered by teachers credentialed in an American Indian language, or culture, or both, who have three or more years of teaching experience.”

Below is a short description of both AB 163 and the original Native language credentialing bill (now law) AB 544, links to history of the bills, and a link to the CA Ed Code.

Hope this is useful information.

Take care,

CA AB 163
– This bill, as now amended, would amend Section 44262.5 of the California Education Code, and amend Section 1 of Chapter 324 of the Statutes of 2009, relating to teacher credentialing to require the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, upon recommendation by a tribal government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in California, to issue an American Indian language-culture credential with an American Indian language authorization, or an American Indian culture authorization, or both, to a candidate who has met specified requirements.

CA AB 544 – This bill authorized amending the California Education Code, Section 44262 to include Section 44262.5 to authorize the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, upon recommendation by a tribal government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in California, to issue an American Indian languages credential to a candidate who has demonstrated fluency in that tribal language, and met other requirements.

Link to CA Ed Code Section 44262.5: or here.

Alaska Native News: Native Americans Work to Save Language

An excerpt: FORT YATES, NORTH DAKOTA—One evening a week, young and old gather in Michael Moore’s classroom in Fort Yates, North Dakota, to learn Lakota — the language of their Sioux tribal ancestors.

For many of the students here at Sitting Bull College, it’s a tongue their great grandparents spoke fluently at home.

But that changed in the early 1900’s, when thousands of Native American children were sent to boarding schools where they were told to assimilate, learn English and forget all aspects of their native culture.

Gabe Black Moon, who co-teaches Lakota with Moore, remembered his time at one such school.

“The government punished [us for speaking] our language, and I’ve seen that happen. It happened to me,” he said. “Day one, I went to school, I couldn’t speak English. I got punished pretty bad.”

Presidential recognition

Renewed efforts to preserve Lakota for future generations received national recognition earlier this year when President Barack Obama visited Standing Rock Native American Reservation, where he praised Sioux tribal leaders’ for revitalizing the endangered tongue.

To read the full article, click here.