andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Mon Nov 3 17:42:07 UTC 2003
Native language taught on Wind River Reservation
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Teaching the native language to students on the
Wind River Indian Reservation seems to help establish cultural pride
that can be passed on to future generations, according to a University
of Wyoming anthropologist.
Pam Innes, a linguistic anthropologist, said the Northern Arapaho and
Eastern Shoshone languages are being taught to 3-5 year-olds in
preschool Head Start programs.
The language instruction continues through high school.
Because fewer American Indian children speak their native languages at
home, there is concern that native languages on the Wyoming reservation
and those elsewhere are dying. A response has been language education
combined with the teaching of cultural traditions and history.
''Language and culture are so entwined that to lose one seriously
compromises the strength of the other,'' Innes said. ''My work has been
an attempt to help tribes retain their language.''
Some students can how hold conversations in their native languages and
have also developed or maintained an interest in traditional culture,
such as by forming dancing, singing and drumming groups.
However, the interest tends to wane among some students as they
progress into high school.
''In some cases, the classes don't appear to be igniting the students'
interest and keeping them focused, but that may be more reflective of
the total school situation and social structure than an indication of
the teachers' abilities or materials being taught,'' Innes said.
Yet Innes said the classes yield a variety of benefits. Students who
are taught native craftwork show potential as artists, for example, and
students also are introduced to spiritual and political leaders.
''And there is the intangible facet of pride. Where these classes have
instilled confidence to do well in the world, the experience offers
them positive reinforcement that may give them an edge,'' she said.
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