Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
September 23, 2000 - Issue 19

Protecting U.S. Native Languages

Native Americans are invited to join Kidlink's Who-Am-I? educational program in their languages. Out of 176 living languages listed, most are endangered, and spoken by less than 2 million American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts. The list includes famous names like Apache, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Comanche, Cree, Inuktitut, Mohawk, and Navaho.

Jointly with Canku Ota (Many Paths), Kidlink proposes its eight-month, multilingual Who-Am-I? as a vehicle to protect United States' indigenous heritage. Key is the program's record of motivating children and youth to read and write in their own language.

"To indigenous communities, it is a means to increase their youth's knowledge and appreciation of their area, people, language, culture, the way the society works, history," says Odd de Presno, Kidlink's executive director. "It is also a means to communicate their culture to outsiders using their students as agents, supported by teachers."

Kidlink is a non-profit grassroots organization providing free educational services to children and youth through the secondary school. Our work is supported by 79 public mailing lists for conferencing, a private network for Real-Time Interactions (like chats), an online art exhibition site, and some 500 volunteers living throughout the world. Most volunteers are teachers and parents. Since the start 10 years ago, over 175,000 kids from 137 countries on all continents have participated in our activities.

Who-Am-I? challenges students to collect and document elements of the communities' culture that may be about to get lost. Their works may be used as learning material in each community's language. Currently, the program runs in parallel in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, and Saami. Romanian and Catalan are scheduled to be added soon.

To teachers, it is a means to classroom instruction within writing, research, social studies, history, geography, foreign languages, economics, mathematics, science, the arts, current awareness, as well as personal development, Internet networking skills, information and communications technology skills.

When students have a purpose (to get friends) and an audience, they want to read and write. They demand knowledge to realize their purpose. Thus, it gives otherwise "boring" classroom tasks meaning for students.


Canku Ota

The Invitation

Article about Canku Ota, an e-zine for and about Native America

Odd de Presno



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