| NORMAN, Okla. Students representing the Cherokee Nation's
Cherokee Language Immersion School, Sequoyah Schools and Rocky Mountain
Elementary brought home nine awards from the 11th annual Oklahoma
Native American Youth Language Fair on April 1-2 at the Sam Noble
Museum of Natural History.
The immersion school's second grade won first place in the Pre-kindergarten
to Second Grade Large Group Spoken Language category with its tale
of "Why the Possum's Tail is Bare." Logan Oosahwe-Dushane, also
of the immersion school, took first place in the Pre-k to Second
Grade Large Group Individual Song category with his rendition of
The immersion school's kindergarten class won the Pre-k to Second
Grade Large Group Song category by singing "I'll Fly Away."
Immersion school kindergarten teacher Denise Chaudoin said the
2013 language fair was her fourth time to have a class compete.
She said she taught second grade the three previous years and that
the school always performed well at the event.
"Every group that I've had we've either come in first or second,
and I think most of the others have done first, second or third.
I see other people wining, too, but I don't believe any of our kids
have ever come home without some kind of award," Chaudoin said.
She added that the language fair is good for the children because
it displays their language and gives them confidence to perform
in front of an audience. (2:30) "They have sung it with me and without
me," she said of her kindergarten students. "They could have sung
it today without me. I just kind of mouth the words and keep the
beat, but they know the song. They can sing it by themselves."
third place in the Pre-K to Second Grade Large Group Song category
was the immersion school's first grade with its song "God's Children."
The immersion school's third graders took home third place in
the Third to Fifth Grade Large Group Spoken Language category with
its story "The Little Red Hen," while students from Rocky Mountain
Elementary in Adair County placed third in the Third to Fifth Grade
Large Group Song category for singing "Jesus My All."
The immersion school's sixth grade won first place in the Sixth
to Eighth Grade Large Group Song category with its song "Sequoyah,"
while its seventh and eighth graders won second place with their
version of "Lean On Me." Also, Sequoyah Schools' high school choir
took second place for its rendition of " Celebrate" in the Ninth
to 12th Grade Large Group Song category.
The competitions are broken down into two days. Students participate
according to age, group size (individual, small or large) and in
two types of categories performance and non-performance.
The performance categories include Spoken Language Performance,
Song in Native Language, Language Masters Performance and Spoken
Language with PowerPoint, while the non-performance categories include
Poetry Writing and Performance, Poster Art, Book and Literature
and Cartoon and Comic Book.
Christine Armer, Sam Noble Museum Native American youth language
coordinator and OU Cherokee language instructor, said she's been
with the fair for all 11 years eight as a judge and three
as a coordinator. She said in her time with the event, she's seen
it grow from 126 students the first year to 921 students in 2013.
Armer said the 900-plus students this year contributed 446 performances
or submissions in 45 different Native languages.
"It's more than we've had before. It seems like it's growing
every year," she said. 2:29 "I think that a lot of our tribes have
realized that their language is dying. I think it started back when
bilingual programs started. I think people started realizing how
the language was going away
and I think that's the reason that
they decided the language should go on."
According to its website, the language fair honors the students
of Native languages and their teachers by giving them an opportunity
to publicly present their respective languages. It also celebrates
language diversity in Oklahoma and the United States, as well as
involves the University of Oklahoma, tribal communities, families
and language fair volunteers.
Dr. Mary Linn, curator for Native American languages at the
museum, said the fair began with three objectives after she was
hired as curator.
"One of them was to show that Native languages are still living
and they're not just put into a museum and forgotten about. So I
really wanted to show that children were acquiring the languages,
they were learning the languages, and that they were a vital part
of everyday life in the communities," she said. "I also wanted to
honor the teachers who I had been working with for many years through
teacher-training programs, and I knew they were working without
very much curriculum, without very much support, sometimes no monetary
support at all, paying for all their own materials. So I really
wanted to honor them for trying to teach the languages under theses
circumstances. And then also the students to really give them support
and boost and try to make them feel that there were other kids out
there, maybe in other tribes, but that there were other kids out
there that were doing the same things that they were doing."
Native American Youth Language Fair
The Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair began in April
2003 at the Sam Noble Museum. Elder and teacher Geneva Navarro (Comanche),
Indian educator Quinton Roman Nose (Cheyenne), and the museum Native
American Languages curator Mary Linn wanted a way to recognize the
Native language teachers and students in the state. Native communities
have always valued oratory skills, and we wanted to provide a venue
for youth to use their Native languages publically. In addition,
we wanted to make the public aware that the Native languages of
Oklahoma are living languages.