week representatives from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
attended the annual National Native Language Revitalization Summit
on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a program organized for the
celebration of our rights to continue to speak and revitalize our
addition to us lending support for the educational and advocacy
events planned, I was also invited to be a guest speaker at the
Library of Congress to help introduce the documentary feature, We
Still Live Here: As Nutayunean, as well as participate in
a Q&A session after the screening.
invited to speak was tribal member Kathleen Marshall, who works
with me as a language apprentice. Our government affairs liaison,
Sam Cohen, also attended with us. We presented the Library of Congress
with a copy of our Samala language dictionary.
by Cultural Survival, a proud member of the National Alliance to
Save Native Languages, this annual summits 2011 goal was to
convene language advocates at the Library of Congress and engage
every one of the 62 members of the House and Senate Appropriations
Committees with Native language revitalization success stories.
a tribe that has established a language reclamation project, our
story is an important one to share. It demonstrates that a tribe
can take a language that is near extinction and revitalize it for
current and future generations to enjoy. We showed how investing
tribal resources in our language revitalization efforts will help
our tribal nations future.
National Native Language Revitalization Summit relied both on the
expert recommendations of national tribal policy organizations and
on the local knowledge and recommendations of hundreds of grassroots
tribal language programs like ours.
scarcely 139 spoken Native languages remaining in the United States
and 70 of those spoken fluently only by the very elderly
the summit organizers believed it was important to act immediately
to increase the limited federal support available for the nearly
600 tribal nations with a stake in revitalizing indigenous languages.
were excited to participate in the summit not only to share our
tribal language story with others, but also to hear other tribal
stories and meet with tribal representatives from all across Indian
Country. We heard wonderful, heartfelt stories from tribes that
put their native language into practice in their everyday lives,
and stories about tribal language classes for all levels
from young children to the elderly. It was fun to share information
and learn from each other.
tribe started several years ago by offering a few classes that taught
our native language Samala and from there we expanded
our language program. Since then, we have published an encyclopedia-type
dictionary of our language, developed a comprehensive language apprenticeship
program, organized a Samala singing and dancing group, and incorporated
language lessons into our tribal cultural programs. Our tribal members
from the very young to the young at heart have all
enjoyed learning as much as they can about our native language.
languages are the core of our right to self-determination, and the
foundation of our sovereign tribal governments and traditional institutions
of leadership. I am proud and honored to have participated in the
National Native Language Revitalization Summit. I hope that other
tribes received as much from our Chumash Samala language revitalization
story as I received from their experiences with their native languages.
Zavalla is the culture director of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash
Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
Our ancestors, those who have walked before us, have left many legacies
that, with great pride, we continue to live and build on today.
By bestowing cultural wisdom through generations, we are able to
teach our youth the early ways of the Chumash, learn the traditional
language of our people, and educate the public about who we are
as a tribe and as individuals.