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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Native Languages Project Wins Award
by Reznetnews staff
credits: photo courtesy of

Jason Stein, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal, has won the Freedom Forum/American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity with his 2008 project on the fate of five Native languages in Wisconsin.

The project was called "Down to a Whisper."

In it, Stein wrote, "The five surviving Indian languages of Wisconsin — Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Oneida — are quietly suffering from the same pressures of assimilation pushing languages around the world toward extinction."

Ho-Chunk educator Andrew Thudercloiud told Stein, "There's a story that we have that we were given this language by God, and as such, this language is considered to be sacred. And I was told in this story that when our language is gone, the world will end.

"We see that our language is disappearing. Our beliefs are disappearing ... if we do not keep our language, we're going to exist as Ho-Chunks in name only."

The interactive project recommended several steps including:

  • Immersion schools
  • More mentoring
  • Revival of a state program that helped pay for teaching Native languages in tribal schools.
  • Expand work by University of Wisconsin System professors to help tribes document and record the knowledge of their elders.

The series appeared in June. In September, Wisonsin's state school superintendent proposed that the state revive a long-standing but discontinued state program for American Indian languages.

Stein and the other winners will be recognized at the ASNE convention in Chicago on April 27.

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