On the first Monday and Tuesday of April each year, the Native
American Language department of the Sam Noble Museum hosts the Oklahoma
Native American Youth Language Fair. Hundreds of pre-kindergarten
through 12th-grade Native American language students participate
in judged written and oral performance categories that celebrate
the use of native languages in traditional and modern ways.
Started in 2003 by former Native American Language curator Mary
Linn, Ph.D, the fair provides Native language learners an opportunity
to showcase their accomplishments. The fair supports individual
and community goals in language maintenance, revitalization and
renewal in these ways:
Excellence in language teaching
In preparing for the fair, students and teachers have concrete
goals to work toward in their language classes. In addition, the
fair provides students and teachers with peer support and new ideas
for language learning. The languages have new life with new speakers.
Creating better students
Multiple educational studies show that students in Native language
programs perform as well as or better than their peers on academically
Educational studies show that children in Native language programs
have higher self-esteem and cultural pride and ultimately have stronger
relationships with adults and their communities.
Creating a community of speakers
The fair introduces students to a community of language learners
and speakers like themselves. Turning back years of shame associated
with language use, the fair helps give prestige and prominence to
the learning and speaking of Native languages.
Culturally appropriate assessment
Public speaking has always been a highly-regarded part of Native
life. The fair creates a safe and supportive environment for students
to use their languages and receive feedback.
Support of literacy and the arts
The fair underscores the value of written and oral literacy,
and helps to produce the next generation of writers, storytellers
and artists in Native communities.
Transition to higher education
The fair brings Native students into the museum and the University
of Oklahoma, many for the first time, and welcomes them into an
The fair increases the publics awareness of language diversity
and its contribution to Oklahomas rich cultural heritage.
The first language fair in 2003 attracted almost 200 students
and teachers to participate in three categories, Poster Art, Spoken
Language and Song with Language. The 2015 Fair featured twelve categories,
Poster Art, Spoken Language, Modern and Traditional Song, Comics
& Cartoons, Books & Literature, PowerPoint Presentation,
Advocacy Essay, Film & Video, Spoken and Written Poetry and
The 2015 Language Fair marked the 13th anniversary of the event
and drew some 2,700 visitors over two days to observe the work of
1,166 student participants from 90 different tribal, public school,
community and family language teaching programs performed in 43
languages. Over 150 live performances and over 360 material submissions
filled the program for this years fair (total of 514 entries).
More than 80 judges, volunteers and staff supported the planning
and operation of the fair. The 2015 theme was Language in
Our Future, which led many students to consider the role of
Native language in the contemporary world; cell phones, computers,
spaceships and robots decorated many of the Poster Art submissions.
Sponsorship for the 2015 fair was provided by the Sac and Fox
Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Muscogee (Creek)
Nation, the OU Department of Anthropology - Native American Languages
Program, OU Department of Native American Studies and University
The 2016 Fair will be held on Monday, April 4 and Tuesday, April
5, 2016. The new registration website is currently under construction
and will be available Jan. 1, 2016.
Native American Youth Language Fair
On the first Monday and Tuesday of April each year, the Native American
Language department of the Sam Noble Museum hosts the Oklahoma Native
American Youth Language Fair. Hundreds of pre-kindergarten through
12th-grade Native American language students participate in judged
written and oral performance categories that celebrate the use of
native languages in traditional and modern ways.