member Stacey Oberly gives examples of how to revitalize the
Southern Ute language, including documentation and early childhood
In an aggressive effort of saving the Southern Ute language,
tribal members met during a Language Revitalization and Documentation
meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to discuss the various strategies
of keeping the language alive which many have agreed is unfortunately
Dr. Stacey Oberly, Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy Ute
Language Guide, gave a number of suggestions that were deemed beneficial
in reviving the Southern Ute language, which includes working with
younger age groups, recording songs in the Ute language, hosting
camps, and creating partnerships with universities.
"We need to document every aspect of our language and we need
to do it quick we don't have many elders left," Dr. Oberly
said. "I suggest we consider these [strategies] toward revitalizing
our language while being honest with ourselves. We are doing this
for the youth and the many youth to come."
In a recent study provided by Dr. Oberly, approximately 566
tribes have been recognized by the United States government in 2015
with around 200 native languages being spoken throughout
the U.S. and Canada. With the ongoing decline of language revitalization,
only 20 American Indian languages will be spoken by the year 2050.
With the introduction of these new language strategies, the Southern
Ute Indian Tribe is hoping to not fall in that number.
"There are many native communities who are doing programs in
keeping their language alive," Dr. Oberly added. "We need to join
them in this effort."
Ute tribal elder, Pearl Casias discusses how introducing the
Southern Ute language to the youth is crucial for revitalization.
"There's no doubting it, our language is dying," stated tribal
elder, Lynda Grove-D'Wolf. "If you want the children to learn, you
have to capture their attention. What I learned as a teacher is
that you can only teach those who want to learn. I taught Ute language
to eight students last year, and only one was fluent by the end
of it. If you want this language to survive, you have to form a
committee of fluent speakers have them develop a plan while keeping
Tribal elder, Pearl Casias, stated that the youth must surround
themselves with the education of their language as early as possible.
"When a young woman has a child, she must absorb herself with
the language because the children hear everything around them. That
child is already on their way to understanding. Our language comes
from the creator, it's sacred, and defines who we are as Southern
Utes. To continue to speak it, you must, we must preserve it and
relearn the customs, traditions, and history that makes a person
who they are."