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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 20, 2003 - Issue 96


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Hopi Language Project a Reality for Tuba City School District

by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer
TC District Media

Corn MaidenTuba CIty — It’s taken years to get the local village support and community interest past political obstacles, but this spring Tuba City High and Tuba City Junior High Schools will begin offering a Hopi language program, utilizing everyday Hopi conversation as its basic foundation. Many factors in the past year have propelled the Hopi Lavayi program forward at Tuba City Unified School District. Support from TCHS Principal Adelbert Goldtooth, District Associate Superintendent Dr. Harold G. Begay and District Office of Public Relations Director Rosanda Suetopka Thayer facilitated the program. Marvin Lalo, director of the Hopi Lavayi Project at the Hopi Tribe, put forth relentlessly optimistic efforts.

The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office completed a comprehensive study on Hopi fluency in 1998 that assessed language loss in all 12 Hopi villages.

Additional local village moral support came from Upper Mungapi’s Governor Alene Garcia, Lt. Governor Yvonne Hoosava and their current Board of Directors which include Danny Humetewa Sr., Robert Sakiestewa Jr., Henry Seweyestewa, Florence Albert, Wilfred Moore, Ethel Gilbert, Alden Seweyestewa and Wayne Kuwanhyoima.

Earlier this year the Village of Upper Mungapi’s Board of Directors passed a unanimous vote of endorsement for their children thus making the village and school partnership a solid reality.

Along with the language classes for students at Tuba City High and TC Junior High, the village is discussing the possibility of conducting classes for its own community members at the village level.

On Aug. 28, in the first of what will be a series of collaborative meetings held at TCHS, representatives looked at several options for implementing the Hopi Lavayi language program offered next semester.

Among those present were Leigh Kuwanwisima from the Hopi Tribe Office of Cultural Preservation, Dawa Taylor director of the Hopi Lavayi Project and Reanna Albert from Hopi Tribal Chairman’s Office. From TCUSD attendees included Principal Goldtooth; TCJHS Principal Richard Grey; Susie Store, Navajo Language coordinator; Harry Manygoats, parent coordinator; Sarah Dallas, TCHS; and Eleanor Williams, Louise Kerley and Sally McCabe, all Navajo Language teachers. Jessie Talaswaima, Lynn Fredericks and Roger Mase were there from Hopi High School.

In the past, TCUSD only offered the Navajo and Spanish language as “foreign” language options.

However, a record number of Hopi students currently attend Tuba City District schools with both students and parents expressing their desire to have the Hopi language offered.

Through the initial efforts of Dr. Begay, who said he believes “that education also means equity in accessing culturally appropriate as well as rigorous academic choices,” these student and parental wishes will now become reality.

Prior to the spring semester, age appropriate materials for the new junior high and high school Hopi language classes will be developed. Also, TC district will need to find an accredited high school teacher who is a fluent Hopi speaker to teach the classes—a different approach than Hopi Jr/Sr High School has taken.

Although Hopi Jr/Sr High School currently offers a Hopi language class, it does not have an accredited teacher who is a fluent Hopi speaker. Hopi Jr/Sr creatively solved this problem by having an accredited non-Hopi speaking teacher accompanied by a fluent Hopi speaking teacher’s aide who does the actual language teaching and is in the classroom the entire classroom period.

Hopi Lavayi Project Director Taylor sent a formal letter of appreciation to the TC district administration.

"We are truly thankful for your vital role you played during our course in preparing and finally receiving approval from the Hopi Tribal Council to dedicate the $400,000 Phoenix Indian Trust Fund towards the Hopi Lavayi Program,"Taylor's letter states. "This has been a pivotal moment in Hopi history where the commitment of the Hopi Tribe and the Hopi Tribal Council has been reinforced to address this vital trend in Hopi language loss surrounding the Hopi People. This is truly a milestone in our progression towards Hopi language revitalization. Your continued Tuba City District efforts and support are recognized as phenomenal."

For more information about the proposed Hopi language classes offered at TCUSD next semester, please call Principal Adelbert Goldtooth at Tuba City High School (928-283-1047) or the Tuba City District Office of Public Relations (928-283-1072).

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