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Preserving a Culture: Wyoming Arapaho Work to Keep Their Language Alive

Society & Culture  (tags: Arapaho, Wyoming, language, culture, Native Americans, teaching, preservation, history )

- 3502 days ago -
The Algonkian language of the Arapaho is dying out. There are 2 dialects, one spoken by the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming, the other by the Southern Arapaho in Oklahoma. In Wyoming tribal elders want to ensure that their language lives on through the young.

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RC d (418)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 5:09 am
Hear Laura Shakespear speaking Arapaho: Laura Speaks

For more information on Laura and the work of the "Blue Sky People" to preserve their language: AN INTERVIEW WITH AN ARAPAHO ELDER

Joycey B (750)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 6:41 am
I am so fascinated by this woman. Noted with thanks Cate.

Past Member (0)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 6:41 am
How many languages are there in the world? How about 5 billion! Each of us talks, listens, and thinks in his/her own special language that has been shaped by our culture, experiences, profession, personality, mores and attitudes. The chances of us meeting someone else who talks the exact same language is pretty remote.

My own quote.....I understand the language of trees........


Terrie Williams (798)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 9:14 am
"They" teach German, Italian, French and Spanish, in schools...I think they ought to offer classes in Native American Languages too! But that's too radical a thought isn't it....for 'them'.

I wonder if the Tribes could get together with Rosetta Stone, Inc., and come up with some learning CD's....that would be one more way of keeping the languages alive.

RC d (418)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 9:31 am
What a great idea, Terrie!

Past Member (0)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 9:39 am
Terrie.....I never thought of that before!!

The absence of teaching Native American languages was a means of isolating Native Americans all the more in years past. And, it should be revived for the Native American children who are forced to forget & speak english only!!!!!!!!!!

America should have a Native American as president!!!!!



Terrie Williams (798)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 10:51 am
It was not forgotten, Bette, as in my family it was passed down from one generation to the next, hidden, and only spoken amongst ourselves. Just as German was only spoken in the house and never past the front door. My family is German/Sioux/English in ancestry.

The Washichu tried to kill out everything that made Natives--Native, but they only succeeded in driving it all underground and passed on in secret.


Deborah Hooper (59)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 11:51 am
It would not be the first time languages have become lost to history. But is yet another thing we should have learned from the Natives and true owners of this land.

I've just typed and deleted a section of questions that, well, here they are.

What makes our ancestors that, instead of learning from the Native Americans, killed them, rounded them up and hauled them away, tortured them, and more, what makes them any better than the Nazi's?

Humans can be the worst of Animals. We haven't really helped the Natives in over 600 years.

Maureen S (35)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 11:52 am
It is imperative to hold on to your native language and pass it on to your descendents. It is a part of your soul and heart. Preserve your heritage.

Past Member (0)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 12:31 pm
Deborah......I'm going to write something that will probably to set a few on fire.....So be it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The U.S. government has done so much more for blacks than they have ever done for Native Americans. There I've written it!!!!!!!!

One thing Native Americans have always done is kept their dignity & pride intact.....They are a patient people & surely by the grace of God they will get what they deserve without rampages & guilt tripping murder!!!!!

We as a people should help the Native Americans all we can!!!


Louise L (48)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 3:54 pm
It is absolutely imperative that all languages are kept alive, in whatever way we can. I have noted before, several times, how disgraceful it is that Native Americans have been treated so shabbily. From the very beginning, once the English had absorbed all the knowledge they could from the Natives (like how to grow enough food to live), they turned on them for their land. Even slaves and indentured servants were treated better. Today, Native Americans should be in charge of wildlife and land management. Thanks for a very touching post, Ombretta.

Summer Daze (162)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 8:23 pm
Terrie....what a wonderful idea! I have Cherokee in my blood...both sides. None of my family is interested except MY son. A few years ago...knowing how interested in this part of my heritage I was...and knowing how bad I wanted to learn the language....for Christmas he bought me a book on learning the Cherokee alphabet and language. I couldn't do it! It is a hard language. One of the things I really wanted to be able to do was say and write my name in Cherokee. To no avail. :-( I would *LOVE* to be able to learn Cherokee! Rosetta Stone would be a GREAT way to be able to do it! I don't live near any...but would still like to be able to speak and write the language. I hate that the Native Americans have gotten such a raw deal all these years. Great article Ombretta! Noted with great thanks!!!!

Deborah N (37)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 8:38 pm
Wouldn't that just make this Government really pissed .. they really thought they had ALL Native Americans in there palm.. they stripped them of everything.. but they still had there pride & there knowledge of WHO they are... I would love for them to get all that back & be a Nation again.. the Native Americans have been down long enough & bowing to the Government too long.. I for one would be glad for them to be Proud & teach what they have have kept in there heads for so long... maybe they can leave what they have been made to be for long behind them ... they are the Patience of all humans.. I hope they get everything back they have lost for so long...

Denice G (45)
Saturday October 18, 2008, 10:15 pm
Thanks so much Cate.

Deborah Hooper (59)
Sunday October 19, 2008, 11:25 am
Yes, a way to teach and learn the Native languages would be wonderful. I would hate to see it all lost to history. We should be glad that isn't gone yet and start doing the right thing in protecting it and the way of life.

Sandy v (91)
Sunday October 19, 2008, 2:17 pm
OKAY, the native languages can NOT be taught in public schools. There are hundreds of dialect in Native culture. In blackfeet tribes you have more than one but they managed to save the languages starting in the 70's as the elders died off. One lady I know mixed blackfeet cree french and english together but I understood her and before her death, college kids recorded her talking and explaining. This sweet lady was in her late 80's, lived in a tar shack of 2 rooms in weather that got down to 60 below and she would walk. She would go to the bar to visit and jig with other elders. She could never afford to buy a drink and God, how I loved that woman. Next, teaching kids their native language gives them a real identity of themselves and is a plus. The kids raised by people that went into all boading schools missed out on their language, but these are the same people fighting to bring it back. You can go to Missoula MT college and learn the native religion in a wide view. Each tribe has it's own tribal religeous beliefs and ceremonies and some are still secret today as with the Hopi in the SW. Some of the languages are extremely tough to learn as with gutterale sounds deep within the throat. Natives took it upon themselves to save languages. As far as the Cherokee, they are wonderful. They teach the entire culture as well as language. Wes Studi, actor, activist and teacher covers all of it and practices all of it. I noticed him in Dances with Wolves as the "savage" that killed the mule skinner and mules and scalped him. He was scary. Then he was in Last of the Mohicans and equally vicious. Next he made 3 Tony Hillerman movies as Joe Leaphorn. That is when I started looking up everything I could find on him and it is under the Cherokee Nation. He does many projects speaking his native language only. I wish this tribe luck and love. They need to use tape recordings of this wonderful lady and all elders, for pronunciation (very hard to say some words), meaning and spelling (which proved hard for the blackfeet). We all need to support the tribes that are doing this because the government still looks down on language by these people. Maybe they are afraid of a Native uprising and won't be able to understand the language.

Sandy v (91)
Sunday October 19, 2008, 2:21 pm
Oh and as far as the Arapaho. If you have children and one parent is from the tribe, the tribe will see to it they pay the parent to raise the children. My sister in law (blackfeet) married an Arapaho, he ran off and the tribe sent her a check every month to help with the kids. I don't know of any other tribe that does this but I am only familar with about 30 tribe in the west so there could be others. Many tribes won't even collect support from the parent that runs off.

Jillian G (6)
Tuesday October 21, 2008, 5:57 am
This is an amazing story; I think it's wonderful that this tribe has managed to find a way to revive their language and culture. I don't think enough Native American kids and young adults ar in touch enough with their roots; hopefully this will remedy that for this tribe.

Susan H (338)
Friday October 24, 2008, 9:34 am
I want to know more about her.
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