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  •  Newspaper series about WI Native Languages (6+ / 0-)

    In the summer of 2008, The Wisconsin State Journal published a series of articles by Jason Stein that focused on the Native Languages of WI: the factors that led to the decline in use of the languages, and the new efforts to teach the youngest members of the tribe their native language.

    I've added a link to each article and quoted a bit from the article itself. I found the articles to have a wealth of information. As a recent transplant to WI, I also found the articles opened a door to a different world for me.

    LAST HOPE FOR NATIVE LANGUAGES WISCONSIN'S SACRED TRIBAL TONGUES, ONCE SPOKEN BY TENS OF THOUSANDS, NEED ACTION NOW OR RISK BEING FORGOTTEN.

    In the country of the white pines, by the waters of Lake Superior and the banks of the Wisconsin River, the voices are dying one by one.

    The first languages of Wisconsin, the vessels bearing ages of American Indian history, song, medicine and prayers, could be as little as a generation away from an all-abiding silence. Languages that are grafted to the land and that together once counted tens of thousands of native speakers in the state, now have only an aging few here.

    Without unprecedented action, the state's tribes will test the Ho-Chunk belief that the fate of a people is tied to their native tongue.

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    LANGUAGES A WINDOW INTO THE HUMAN MIND\ IN ONEIDA, ONE 46-CHARACTER WORD MEANS "THE TWO OF THEM WENT AROUND TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ALTAR AGAIN."

    When an Oneida speaks, there are whispers.
    The softly spoken sounds often come in the final syllables of Oneida words, usually when the words fall at the end of sentences. This rare, fragile feature hints at the richness and complexity of Wisconsin's threatened native languages.

    "It's very unconscious. I've met people who didn't realize they were doing it, and it's a natural part of the way they speak," said UW-Green Bay linguist Cliff Abbott, who's spent a career studying Oneida. "I find it a little bit mysterious to be perfectly honest."

    Tribes and linguists alike are running out of chances to preserve this intriguing diversity. By this century's end, more than half of the world's roughly 6,000 languages will be lost, linguists say. An even greater majority of the 155 native languages left in the United States are expected to disappear

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    THROUGH LOVE,' LANGUAGE LOST SEEKING TO SPARE THEIR CHILDREN PAIN, MANY INDIAN PARENTS REFUSED TO TEACH THEM THEIR NATIVE TONGUE.

    As her father lay dying in 1972, Kris Caldwell agonized over a question.

    All her life, Caldwell had begged her father, Jim, to share with her the Menominee language that tribal members believe the creator gave to their ancestors. But her father, then a 79-year-old former logging boss, would only teach her a few words.

    "Why were you so mean to me, Dad?" the then 21-year-old Caldwell asked the man she admired so much. "Didn't you like me?"

    "What? Oh, you're foolish, foolish," her father answered. "Times are changing, daughter. It's a white man's game now. If you want to prosper and get ahead in the world, you have to learn to play their game and play it better."

    Only years later did Caldwell come to understand the reasons behind her father's reticence: the trauma he endured at Indian boarding schools.

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    A 'JOURNEY BACK TO OURSELVES' IMMERSION PROGRAMS, LIKE AN OJIBWE SCHOOL IN HAYWARD, TEACH STUDENTS ALMOST ENTIRELY IN THEIR TRADITIONAL LANGUAGE.

    Paper in hand, the 7-year-old girl shuffles shyly to the head of the classroom. She pauses and then delivers a routine report in a revolutionary way - in the language of her ancestors.

    "We went snowshoeing last week," Shainah Peterson, also known as Running-Bear-Woman, reads in Ojibwe.

    Watching Shainah is a teacher who helped introduce Wisconsin to the idea of educating American Indian children almost entirely in their traditional languages.

    Fledgling efforts like this northern Wisconsin charter school bring hope, for the first time in more than a generation, that children may again master Wisconsin's threatened native languages, tribal leaders and linguists say.

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    TRIBAL EFFORTS GET LITTLE GOVERNMENT HELP STATE ENDED PROGRAM FUNDING LANGUAGE INITIATIVES, AND FEDERAL MONEY IS MODEST.

    Efforts to save Wisconsin's endangered native languages receive no real state investment and only modest federal money, a Wisconsin State Journal review has found.

    The state stopped directly funding tribal language initiatives in 2003, when the then Republican-controlled Legislature cut the $220,000 a year they were receiving. That cut eliminated a program, dating to 1980, that helped fund language and culture classes at five schools for American Indian students in Wisconsin.

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    OVERCOMING THEIR PAST TO TEACH THE YOUNG INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS TOOK AWAY THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE, BUT TRIBES ARE PROMOTING HEALING WITH PROJECTS THAT FOCUS ON LANGUAGE AND TRADITIONAL SKILLS.

    Chloris Lowe Sr. didn't teach his children to speak the language of their Ho-Chunk ancestors.

    But today, in this small tribal day care, he and his great-grandson chatter happily in Ho-Chunk.

    Lowe, 80, a tribal elder who lived through the era of English-only Indian boarding schools, is now helping to undo the corrosive effects those institutions had on his people.

    "These kids here, the way they understand Ho-Chunk, before they even talk, my gosh!" said Lowe, a native speaker of the language who is helping teach it to the toddlers here. "You could almost go to tears because they're really picking it up."

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    This last article was published after the series had ended. I remember being so hopeful that the state would step in to assist school districts in teaching native languages.

    Unfortunately the economy tanked that winter and so did the WI state budget. I don't know if anything was ever funded as the state funding to the schools was severely slashed.

    STATE MAY FUND INDIAN LANGUAGES SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS WANTS MONEY FOR INSTRUCTION

    When teachers of the state's native languages want a children's book, some of them end up pasting a translation over the words of a book in English.

    Now Wisconsin's top schools official wants to give them help developing materials and even hiring staff by reviving a long-standing but now ended state program for American Indian languages.

    I think I will write Jason Stein and ask him if he will do a follow up to this series. i would like to know what has changed/happened in the last 2 years.

    I'll be at the next FightingBobFest, Wisconsin's Progressive Chautauqua in Baraboo, WI. Will you?

    by Sand Hill Crane on Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 06:11:13 PM PDT

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