approaches language education from new angle
are few things more important or dear to a culture than its language.
To that end, the Oneida Nation is taking steps to preserve its language.
On Wednesday, leaders of the Oneida Tribe of Indians will sign a
charter outlining a broad language immersion strategy.
charter, developed by the Oneida Language Charter Team, is a plan
to help language members become fluent in the Oneida language, according
to Dr. Carol Cornelius, area manager of the Oneida Cultural Heritage
Department. The team consists of 13 members, two of which are serving
on the Oneida Language Revitalization Program and others from the
nation's human resources, gaming, education and administrative branches.
called for by the charter, the Oneida Nation has hired a linguist
fluent in the Oneida and Mohawk languages who can assist tribal
members in learning the Oneida language.
culture outlines a formula for remembering history while making
decisions for the future.
have to look back seven generations to see what our people did,"
Cornelius said. She added that today's decisions are made with an
eye toward the interests of tribal members seven generations from
charter's objective, in accord with Oneida culture, states that
in seven generations the Oneida people and the Oneida organization
will speak the Oneida language, Cornelius said.
begin to realize that plan, the Oneida Nation will form a teacher
certification program and the Oneida Business Committee will send
communications to 3,000 government employees informing them the
Oneida language is the tribe's official language.
short-term plans for language immersion are coming together, long-range
objectives to get the nation's 15,000 members scattered across the
globe to speak fluent Oneida are on the horizon, according to Brian
A. Doxtator, charter team member and member of the Oneida Business
Committee. Members of the Oneida tribe living on or near the reservation
charter team is a tool to expand bilingual learning, an objective
that was present in the establishment of the Oneida Language Revitalization
Program in 1995. Under the program, elders fluent in the Oneida
language teach the language to younger adults.
program was initiated after a survey found only 25-30 elders who
learned the Oneida language as their first language were alive.
Webster, the first elder in the program, recently died, Cornelius
said. Now, two of the teachers, at the ages of 82 and 85, are working
20 hours a week with the program, Cornelius said.
revitalization program's Web site contains the image of a faceless
corn husk doll carrying a basket; the basket carried by the doll
symbolizes the teaching of the Oneida language from generation to
recounted the story of the corn husk doll. The doll became so preoccupied
with her beauty that she forgot to care for the children for whom
she was responsible. As a consequence, the creator took away her
face so she would not forget her responsibilities.
said it is the Oneida tribal members' responsibility to learn the
Oneida language from the elders and transfer it to following generations.
if you only know one word, use it," she said.
said he is studying to become fluent - fluent meaning he will be
able to speak the language as seamlessly as the water flows when
it is being poured, he said.
Oneida Nation is faced with expanding the vocabulary of the Oneida
language. About 10 years ago, fluent speakers of the language traveled
from Canada and New York to the reservation to work with Oneida
tribal members in developing new words. There was a time, Doxtator
said, when things such as a floor, hot dog, french fries or computer
could not be expressed in the Oneida language.
of the Oneida language program can be seen on the reservation, Doxtator
said. A grocery store on the reservation sells food labeled in English
and Oneida. Part of the charter team's task will be to decide how
to change street names and building signs to accommodate usage of
the two tongues.
language defines our culture and it's important we remember our
language and our culture," Doxtator said.
Cultural Heritage Language Revitalization Program
"The Oneida Language Revitalization mission
is to provide our community every opportunity to learn the Oneida
language and culture. Our goal is to rekindle a fluent speaking
community by providing language and culture resources. By upholding
this, we are tying our arrows together so that our language will
not be broken."