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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Hoocak Ee Cooni Fights To Keep The Language Alive
by Tim Wohlers - Hocak Worak Staff Writer
Children participate in an activity involving plants.

To have a language is to have a culture. And sadly, to lose that language is to lose the culture. For this precise reason, Daycare Administrator Mary Thundercloud-Eary and her staff at the Hoocak Ee Cooni learning center in Wisconsin Dells fight to preserve the Ho-Chunk language within the tribe. They realize the importance of language within a culture, and its vast significance in retaining that culture. Based on this realization, they devote every second of the day to teaching Ho-Chunk youth their native language.

“We’re trying to create language nests for families as a way to revitalize and save the language,” ThundercloudEary explains. “We’re really working to have more families speak the language so it’s not something we lose.”

A language apprentice teaches Ho-Chunk to the kids.

The daycare welcomes enrolled Ho-Chunk children who are 4 months to 4 years old. But the younger, the better. As they say, the early bird gets the worm. Kids tend to soak up everything. With that being the case, the learning center targets infants and young children.

“What we’re trying to do is create these baby Ho-Chunk speakers,” ThundercloudEary admits. “It’s age-appropriate and follows all the state standards.”

Research into undeveloped brains have taught us a few things. For one, a child’s first language grows the strongest. For another, young minds are very suggestible. Children learn quickly, and listen to everything we say. So when it comes to learning a language, immersion proves to be the best teaching method.

Two children embrace the art of role-playing.

“We’re really trying to speak only Ho-Chunk to the babies,” Thundercloud-Eary states. “Once they come in, the babies are immersed in Ho-Chunk as soon as they enter. It’s all in Ho-Chunk. The goal is to be a true immersion program.”

By far, language immersion constitutes the largest part of the agenda at the learning center. However, many fun and engaging activities present themselves for the children. For instance, reading comprises a substantial portion of the day. Some books are written in English, and then translated into HoChunk. Others have already been translated for the kids.

“You teach the language like you would any other language,” ThundercloudEary informs. “So we read stories.”

Everything the staff does at the daycare reinforces language learning. The apprentices speak in Ho-Chunk. Books are read in Ho-Chunk. And soon, the kids will think in Ho-Chunk. The entire focus lies on ingraining the Ho-Chunk language into the minds of children.

“That’s the goal of the program – to speak only in Ho-Chunk all day long to the kids,” Thundercloud-Eary reveals. “The goal has always been to save the language. Hopefully, we’ll develop a whole school system where the children only speak HoChunk.”

Young children practice arts and crafts at the daycare.
The learning center provides a safe and clean environment for youth.
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