- English is the first language for most of Montana's American Indians,
and that has some worried that their native tongue could be lost forever.
We recently met some young college students
who are holding tight to their roots and hoping their ancient language
will grow again.
The sounds and words that the Salish Indians
used for hundreds of years once echoed through the Mission Valley.
Now, a dozen students in a language class
at Salish Kootenai College are wrapping their tongues around an
ancient language that's struggling to be heard.
"Our language is dying. A lot of
people ... don't care or are unaware of it," Salish student
Miranda Nyomo told us. "We have 50 fluent speakers in a nation
Nyomo and her brother Anthony were recently
in class playing word games used to teach the language and learn
the alphabet. They're also offering hope to the elders who also
see their language dying.
"It's sad to me because some of us,
Indian people, we believe that without our language, we wouldn't
be Indian ... I wouldn't call myself a real Indian," Alec Quequesah
The letters and sounds of the Salish language
are fascinating and beautiful. But, most only experience native
language on the bilingual roadsides along US Highway 93. Traveling
north, you'll see Salish, south it's Kooenita, a language also taught
It's a nod to a culture that wants to
maintain its ancient identity. "Assimlation. We want to keep
our identiy and what makes us different," Mali' Matt told us.