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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Cherokees Win Awards at Native Language Fair
by Travis Snell - Assistant Editor Cherokee Phoenix
NORMAN, Okla. – Students representing the Cherokee Nation's Cherokee Language Immersion School, Sequoyah Schools and Rocky Mountain Elementary brought home nine awards from the 11th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 1-2 at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History.

The immersion school's second grade won first place in the Pre-kindergarten to Second Grade Large Group Spoken Language category with its tale of "Why the Possum's Tail is Bare." Logan Oosahwe-Dushane, also of the immersion school, took first place in the Pre-k to Second Grade Large Group Individual Song category with his rendition of "Amazing Grace."

The immersion school's kindergarten class won the Pre-k to Second Grade Large Group Song category by singing "I'll Fly Away."

Immersion school kindergarten teacher Denise Chaudoin said the 2013 language fair was her fourth time to have a class compete. She said she taught second grade the three previous years and that the school always performed well at the event.

"Every group that I've had we've either come in first or second, and I think most of the others have done first, second or third. I see other people wining, too, but I don't believe any of our kids have ever come home without some kind of award," Chaudoin said. She added that the language fair is good for the children because it displays their language and gives them confidence to perform in front of an audience. (2:30) "They have sung it with me and without me," she said of her kindergarten students. "They could have sung it today without me. I just kind of mouth the words and keep the beat, but they know the song. They can sing it by themselves."

Taking third place in the Pre-K to Second Grade Large Group Song category was the immersion school's first grade with its song "God's Children."

The immersion school's third graders took home third place in the Third to Fifth Grade Large Group Spoken Language category with its story "The Little Red Hen," while students from Rocky Mountain Elementary in Adair County placed third in the Third to Fifth Grade Large Group Song category for singing "Jesus My All."

The immersion school's sixth grade won first place in the Sixth to Eighth Grade Large Group Song category with its song "Sequoyah," while its seventh and eighth graders won second place with their version of "Lean On Me." Also, Sequoyah Schools' high school choir took second place for its rendition of " Celebrate" in the Ninth to 12th Grade Large Group Song category.

The competitions are broken down into two days. Students participate according to age, group size (individual, small or large) and in two types of categories – performance and non-performance.

The performance categories include Spoken Language Performance, Song in Native Language, Language Masters Performance and Spoken Language with PowerPoint, while the non-performance categories include Poetry Writing and Performance, Poster Art, Book and Literature and Cartoon and Comic Book.

Christine Armer, Sam Noble Museum Native American youth language coordinator and OU Cherokee language instructor, said she's been with the fair for all 11 years – eight as a judge and three as a coordinator. She said in her time with the event, she's seen it grow from 126 students the first year to 921 students in 2013.

Armer said the 900-plus students this year contributed 446 performances or submissions in 45 different Native languages.

"It's more than we've had before. It seems like it's growing every year," she said. 2:29 "I think that a lot of our tribes have realized that their language is dying. I think it started back when bilingual programs started. I think people started realizing how the language was going away…and I think that's the reason that they decided the language should go on."

According to its website, the language fair honors the students of Native languages and their teachers by giving them an opportunity to publicly present their respective languages. It also celebrates language diversity in Oklahoma and the United States, as well as involves the University of Oklahoma, tribal communities, families and language fair volunteers.

Dr. Mary Linn, curator for Native American languages at the museum, said the fair began with three objectives after she was hired as curator.

"One of them was to show that Native languages are still living and they're not just put into a museum and forgotten about. So I really wanted to show that children were acquiring the languages, they were learning the languages, and that they were a vital part of everyday life in the communities," she said. "I also wanted to honor the teachers who I had been working with for many years through teacher-training programs, and I knew they were working without very much curriculum, without very much support, sometimes no monetary support at all, paying for all their own materials. So I really wanted to honor them for trying to teach the languages under theses circumstances. And then also the students to really give them support and boost and try to make them feel that there were other kids out there, maybe in other tribes, but that there were other kids out there that were doing the same things that they were doing."

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Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair
The Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair began in April 2003 at the Sam Noble Museum. Elder and teacher Geneva Navarro (Comanche), Indian educator Quinton Roman Nose (Cheyenne), and the museum Native American Languages curator Mary Linn wanted a way to recognize the Native language teachers and students in the state. Native communities have always valued oratory skills, and we wanted to provide a venue for youth to use their Native languages publically. In addition, we wanted to make the public aware that the Native languages of Oklahoma are living languages.

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