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American Indian languages get 'Breath of Life'

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  • Rob Schmidt
    http://www.newsok.com/american-indian-languages-get-breath-of-life/article/3466760 American Indian languages get Breath of Life An intensive five-day
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 15, 2010

      American Indian languages get 'Breath of Life'

      An intensive five-day workshop at OU's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History taught participants how to study and teach the
      linguistics of tribal languages

      BY JAMES S. TYREE Oklahoman
      Published: June 7, 2010

      NORMAN - Tracey Moore is a member of the Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee and Sac & Fox tribes who aims to help keep their disappearing
      languages alive by learning, speaking and teaching them.

      She learned how recently during the Breath of Life workshop at the University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural

      The May 24-28 program taught participants how to conduct linguistic research on tribal languages, starting with archival materials
      at the museum.

      The program is designed for people from tribes that lack fluent speakers of their language who want to help preserve the language
      for future generations.

      Moore was eager to return home to Fairfax, where she would study even further and share that knowledge with her students in the
      Osage Nation's Language Program.

      "It's just inspiring; I can't wait to go back and dig in," she said. "With the linguistics part, I will have the ability to learn
      all my languages."

      Mary Linn, curator of Native American Languages at the Sam Noble museum, organized the workshop and invited scholars from other
      universities to work with participants. A National Science Foundation grant helped pay for the program, based on a concept Linn said
      started six years ago in Berkeley, Calif.

      "Like California, in Oklahoma there are not a lot of native speakers left," Linn said. "We started to contact tribes to invite
      people to this workshop. It's intensive and it's linguistic, so people have to really work to learn."

      Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Language Project at Miami University in Ohio, was the program's primary teacher.

      The Myaamia Project is a partnership between Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma that fosters the tribe's language and
      cultural revitalization.

      This year's program had eight participants, which Linn said made the workshop feel small but also a good place for the program to
      start. As indicated in their final presentations, the students learned about language patterns and more about their tribes.

      Gwen Shunatona, of Pawnee, noted two distinctions about Pawnee tribal names: they are chosen by the community ("They call me ...)
      and a name is given to indicate the individual's goal in life as opposed to a personal characteristic.

      "When you learn language," Shunatona said, "you learn the culture."

      Hutke Fields, principal chief of the Natchez Nation near Tahlequah, mapped out an extensive Natchez (pronounced not-chee) family
      tree, said a prayer he wrote with help from a Natchez dictionary and compared language traits to those of Creek.

      Eula Doonkeen, an Oklahoma City resident of Seminole and Natchez heritage, said she enrolled in the workshop simply to learn.

      "We have dictionaries, but it's hard to put it together without the rest of it," she said. "I didn't know what to expect here as far
      as detailing our language, but so many things were explained to us, it really opened things up."
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