RESERVATION - In an effort to revitalize the Salish language,
members of the Salish Tribe are holding monthly meetings to discuss
reorganization of language teaching and initiatives to encourage
use of the native language. During the fifth meeting, held March
3 at the Salish-Pend d'Oreille culture committee building, a plan
of action was submitted for elder approval.
Ferris, who is training to be a Salish language teacher with the
Native American Language Teacher Training Institute at the Salish
Kootenai College, said the meetings are a way to coordinate a variety
of efforts to teach the Salish language.
has to be on board, she explained, including the Nk'wsum Immersion
School, the Salish Kootenai College and the Native American Language
Teacher Training Institute.
takes more than one person to revitalize Salish," Ferris said.
"We need to educate people. We cannot put all our eggs in one
of the March meeting discussed six points: collaborating and organizing
efforts to teach the Salish language, integrating Salish into everyday
life, educating the core of tribal government and the media about
the importance of the language, gaining funding for language teaching
programs, using Salish in education systems and identifying community
never been in this situation where we are trying to teach the language,
it's always been a part of our lives," said Tony Incashola,
director of the Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee. "Some
elders take for granted that the next generation will know the language,
but we're finding out that that's not the case."
meetings began because tribal members, including those in the Salish
Culture Committee, agreed that it was ineffective to teach the language
through disparate groups and methods, and that consolidating efforts
within the tribes would benefit the spread of the Salish language.
the years, we had seen different attempts to go about learning Salish,
and there needs to be some sort of working system," Incashola
of the challenges of teaching and learning Salish is that classes
are limited. Beyond the introductory level, intermediate courses
are scarce, said Joshua Brown, Native American Language Teacher
Training Institute director. One goal of the revitalization effort
is to develop curriculum materials for advanced learning.
obstacle is that it's an endangered language and there's just a
low number of speakers," Brown said. "You can't go to
the library and pick up materials. There's no Salish radio, no Salish
TV and very few meetings or social gatherings to hear Salish."
than 50 people speak the language fluently, in addition to those
speakers with varying degrees of familiarity who aren't considered
fluent. Over the years, the culture committee has seen people learn
the language in various ways without much progress in increasing
the number of fluent speakers, Incashola said.
part of the research for how to better spread the Salish language,
members of the Salish Culture Committee consulted the Pend d'Oreille
Tribe in Kalispell to learn about an alternative method of teaching
that emphasizes learning while teaching, Incashola said.
a work in progress. Language is very difficult. Language is something
that takes time and dedication," Incashola said of the meetings,
which are still in the planning stages. "We are just hoping
to get enough continuity and people doing the same thing that [the
language] will spread."
said recent interest in the language has been spearheaded by a group
of to 30-year-olds who are interested in making Salish more accessible
elders are just tickled that so many people are interested in teaching
and revitalizing the language. Our culture exists in our language,"
said the meetings so far have been an achievement in themselves.
good communication is success," he said. "If the teachers,
learners and elders continue to meet and communicate, the Salish
language will be revitalized."