CITY With linguistic statistical studies proving Native
American languages are in danger of becoming extinct and used
less on a daily conversation basis, many tribes are starting to
take drastic steps to ensure that their culture and language does
City Unified School District No. 15 sees tribal language loss as
a serious issue for its 3,000-plus students and, on Sept. 24, devoted
its annual Cultural Symposium to the idea of integrating tribal
language in every aspect of curriculum activity. More than 26 presenters
gave individual session workshops at the Tuba City High School as
an annual in-service for its more than 500 staff members. Parents
and the public in the surrounding Tuba City District area also participated
in the sessions.
workshops addressed traditional technique and art forms, native
consideration in modern research, cross parallels of different tribal
cultures and native ways to relieve stress in the home and workplace.
The importance of student character building using native language
and traditional cultural considerations was another area of emphasis.
Associate Superintendent Dr. Harold G. Begay, who gave an opening
address, spoke to the very heart of tribal language concerns.
seems rather strange that there are many people across the U.S.
today wanting formal status as federally-recognized tribes,"
he said. "There are pending court litigations, on-going federal
appeals for recognition as an Indian tribe, and each day we're seeing
more and more people of diverse backgrounds who have this desire
to be recognized as indigenous peoples. "Meanwhile, we are
also seeing more and more documentation about major indigenous language
crisis or language decline and loss. Is this why we seeing more
and more quest for formal Federal tribal recognition? This may be
the beginning of a major pan-national tribal cultural renaissance.
Begay pointed out revenue's role in native culture's revival.
is pretty evident that the current resurgence in tribalism by many
people across our nation is driven not by culture and language interest
and revival but more by casino revenues, the potentially high profitable
economics of tribalism," he said. Is there a lesson to be learned
if our language and culture had a price tag, or if there were dollars
associated with it, we as speakers of our indigenous languages would
have a thriving economy or even be millionaires."
Begay explained that the presenters would share their thoughts on
the non-commercial aspects of sustaining our native language and
could also dialogue on the potential profitability of native language
and cultures, seeing how we are an educational institution,"
he said. "As an educational institution, it is important that
we take the lead in shedding light on the value of our language
Begay stressed the importance of retaining native language.
may also hear or have heard quite often that our language and culture
are priceless," he said. "If that is the case, why is
it so expensive to have a traditional ceremony?"
English education, learning their language and culture is not priceless
but rather, it is extremely expensive in more ways than one, especially
with us as native peoples. There is a huge exacting cost incurred
when we are native peoples lose ourselves in English education."
to Dr. Begay, there are many questions to raise on the value of
you go about the country, we often hear other nationalities converse
with their young in their native tongue," he said. But, with
our native peoples, we seem to make it a point to converse with
our children in only one foreign language, the English language.
am hoping that today's speakers and presenters will allow us the
opportunity to dialogue on the value of our native language and
culture, not only for the present, but for years to come."
City District currently has a Navajo language program developed
for grades kindergarten to 12th grade and, in the spring of 2004,
will implement a Hopi language program for its junior high and high
school students. The Hopi language classes have been a long time
in coming and have been highly anticipated by its TC High's Hopi
student population. The focus of this Hopi language project will
be to provide an educational support from the TC district for a
teen population to be fluent in everyday Hopi conversation.
materials and curriculum developed for Tuba City District will be
under the guidance and support the Hopi Tribe's Hopi Lavayi Project,
Emory Sekaquaptewa, a professor of linguisitics at the University
of Arizona in Tucson; and Sheila Nicolas, the director of American
Indian Language Development Institute also located in Tucson.
City District also designated last week Dual Language Week and encouraged
all indigenous speaking people working at TC district to speak in
their native language only. The idea was to help heighten the awareness
and importance of maintaining and supporting original language and
allowing the student population to hear languages from countries
all around the world as well as their own local tribal languages.