Chief Dull Knife
College concludes 18th Annual Language Immersion Camp
LAME DEER, Mont. "Talk to me in Cheyenne" and "Don't
forget our language," was the theme for the 2015 Cheyenne language
immersion camp recently held for youth from ages 5-18 at Chief Dull
Knife College (CDKC).
On Friday, July 31, the two weeks of classes were celebrated
with a traditional meal of drymeat, frybread and chokecherry pudding
on a college lawn. Dr. Richard Littlebear, CDKC President, Tribal
Vice-president Winfield Russell, both fluent speakers attended as
did other community members, on hand to commend and encourage the
young language learners.
Elrena Whitedirt, camp coordinator said: "We hope they will
take what they have learned back home and continue on. This gives
us hope that there will Cheyenne language speakers in the future."
The 18th annual camp, sponsored by Chief Dull Knife College,
was organized into two weeklong sessions; the first for 5-10 year
olds and the second for ages 11-18, averaging 20 students per session.
Four certified Cheyenne language instructors taught daily classes
including Adeline Spotted Elk; Dolly Washington; Allene Killsontop
and Joyce Wounded Eye.
Altogether, the camp provided about ten temporary jobs on the
impoverished reservation and all for fluent speakers, following
the immersion model, where only Cheyenne is spoken during the camp
"They catch on fast," said one instructor.
Spirit Campgrounds, at the base of Bear Butte, was recently
home to about 40 Cheyenne tribal members who attended the
1st Language Immersion Camp, an intense learning environment
for Cheyenne language and traditions.
In 2014, a two week language immersion camp was also organized
by CDKC, held at Bear Butte, South Dakota for adults. That event
was sponsored by a grant from the State of Montana, most likely
a one-time event.
"We like to focus on the young ones," camp instructors said.
Recently, the State of Montana passed a law to continue supporting
tribal language preservation efforts for Montana Tribes, to be accompanied
by additional funding. At Northern Cheyenne, it has not yet been
determined how that money will be used.
Throughout the week, several presenters visited with the students
about aspects of the Cheyenne culture including; the proper use
of tobacco; preparation of prayer clothes; traditional smudging,
introduction to drumming/singing; beadwork and a field trip to Lake
DeSmet where a water and prayer ceremony were held.
Rick Wolfblack, Tribal Tobacco Prevention Specialist, for example
passed out rulers reminding the youth to "Rule out Tobacco." Eugene
Little Coyote, tribal health P.R. officers and previous tribal president
explained the use and preparation of blessing cloths, smudging the
Tribal caterers Diane Spotted Elk and Rilla American Horse provided
healthy meals and snacks during the camp where the students also
learned about traditional plant use.
CDKC is committed to the camp for the long haul, hoping that
next year more men will participate.
"We need positive male role models," Elrena noted.
Bertha Limberhand, tribal elder who assisted at the camp noted:
"It is so true. We cannot give up on our language. The best time
for them to learn is when they are young."