Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
October 7, 2000 - Issue 20

Carolyn Quintero - preserving Osage language
by MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World

Growing up in a small town in Osage County, Carolyn Quintero remembered people speaking Osage, a part of the Siouxan family of languages and one of many quickly disappearing from use among tribes.

Quintero was so intrigued with the ancient language and with preserving its history that it became the thesis of doctoral dissertation. Still fascinated with the language years later, she turned to experts to see how the Osage language was being spared from extinction.

There was nothing being done, so Quintero began meeting with tribal elders in Osage County to record their conversations and tales. From her recordings, she began sorting the sounds into phonetic symbols.

"It was a big project," she said of her efforts to determine which sounds coincided with each word in a grammatical breakdown of a sentence. But her 500-word book, "A Grammar of Osage," telling how the language works, is being published now.

The book is a vast expansion of a previously published textbook that outlines 40 lessons for teaching beginning Osage language.

Quintero has taught those basic guidelines to others, and some of her students are now teaching the language within school systems in several area communities.

Delving into the complex language has been a mission she believes was worth the years spent away from the day-to-day operations at Inter Lingua to complete her research.

"It's about preserving a culture and a disappearing language," she said.

Quintero's efforts were made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities through the University of Colorado.

She hopes to secure a second grant to turn her tape recordings into a collection of CDs that could keep the Osage language alive for generations to come -- a legacy of a dying language.

The Osage Tribe's Official Homepage



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