Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Program to Help Preserve West Coast Indian Languages

The West Coast Indian Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla say only 44 elders among its 2,525 tribal members still fluently speak their three native languages: Cayuse, Nez Perce and Walla Walla. To help preserve those languages, the tribe has received $585,000 in grants to create language classes on reservation schools and master-apprentice teams for elders to pass on the language to others. At the end of three years, apprentices may become licensed as language teachers. "It's been the best year of my life, the most enlightened," said apprentice Linda Sampson. "It's opened my eyes." Sampson hopes the program will spark renewed interest in learning West Coast Indian tribal languages, something she believes is crucial. "Every tribe has the same goal -- keeping their language going," she said. "You can preserve it, but you've got to transfer it to your kids."

For another aspect of the tribal culture, see West Coast Indian Carvings.

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