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University of Oregon


The staff at NILI are privileged to work with tribes and organizations on various short and long term projects and we appreciate being invited to be a part of this kind of work because we learn and grow through these collaborative efforts.  NILI has also created sample documents and curriculum to aid in language revitalization efforts.  Here are some of the projects, documents, and curriculum we have collaborated on or created over the years:

Collaborative Work Summer and Fall 2012

Administration for Native Americans Tribal Projects

Chahta Anno̱pa Isht A̱ya

This year, NILI staff have begun working with team members from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on their recently-funded ANA project, Chahta Anno̱pa Isht A̱ya. The project goal is to train and certify Choctaw language instructors and produce language learning materials for teaching Choctaw language learning standards, with a focus on pre-k and elementary school learners in Choctaw Tribal Schools.

NILI will partner with the language program and offer support for the objectives of creating language learning curriculum and teaching materials, and training language teachers. NILI will also work with the project team in evaluating the project. Teachers in the project will also attend NILI’s Summer Institute.

Chinuk Wawa Immersion K-1 Program

This is year 2 of working with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde on their most recent ANA project focused on the development of place and culture based language immersion curriculum for their immersion K-1 program. Judith Fernandes is the lead curriculum developer and teacher trainer on the project, and her goal for this project is to create a literary arts program based on the stories of elder Eula Petite. Some of the stories’ topics have become units in themselves, for example, bears, beavers, elk, birds and frogs. Units contain math, science and language arts lessons in Chinuk Wawa. Seven new place and culture based units will be created each year based on language arts, math and science. NILI is also supporting teachers with trainings in teaching methods, assessment and curriculum writing and working with the language program to continue certifying Chinuk Wawa teachers.

Dee-ni’ Wee-ya’ Xwee-nish

We have begun year 2 of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Wee-ya’ Teacher Certification (TTC) Program. The assessment consists of teacher and learner standards with an assessment tool, and we are developing teaching curriculum to accompany the standards. This will allow the Tribe to implement the Tribal Dee-ni’ Wee-ya’ Xwee-nish (“The Dee-ni’ Language Lives”) Project. This project is essential to Smith River Rancheria as it will allow their Tolowa teachers to become certified Taa-laa-wa language teachers under the State of California’s new American Indian languages Credential Assembly Bill 544 (AB544, January 1, 2010).  The project has a larger scope as it will assist Coastal Athabaskan speaking tribes in both California and Oregon, and will be held as a model for all (California) tribal language programs.

National Science Foundation Documenting Endangered Languages Projects

Ichishkiin/Sahaptin: Language documentation of Yakama natural and cultural resources

We are moving in to year 2 of this Yakama Ichiishkiin documentation project. The importance of Yakama natural and cultural resources, and all that their Yakama names represent, is expanded upon and reinforced in the Yakama language by elders through recollections, stories, songs and ceremonies. The project documents the knowledge of the elders in their own language. It is a collaboration between the Yakama Nation Division of Natural Resources and NILI. We are recording elders speaking to the broad themes of places and cultural and natural resource management and preservation within the Yakama Nation; transcribing, and translating these recordings, and at the end of the project  we will have produced a digital and paper catalogue of Yakama natural resources, including places, plants, animals, fish, birds, and insects significant to Yakamas. This work will support and strengthen natural and cultural resource management and add to efforts to teach and preserve Ichishkiin.

The Tolowa Athabaskan Lexicon and Text Collection Project: Recording the Last Speakers of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Language

This year our NSF- Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) funded documentation project has come to its end.  It has resulted in an audio and written catalogue of Tolowa Dee-ni’ language materials, and has developed a database whose output this year will become a dictionary with accompanying sound files. It was a collaboration between the Del Norte County Unified School District and NILI, and the Smith River Rancheria Tolowa Dee-ni’ Tribe. It has also supported Pyuwa Bommelyn, Tolowa second-language learner, speaker and teacher to complete his masters in Native Language Teaching Specialization (2011) and begin a doctoral program in linguistics.

In addition to recording new material, the project took inventory of existing recordings and creating a searchable database with speaker names, time indexes, and summaries. This work supports Tolowa language and culture preservation, and will provide rich sources that teachers can use to develop classroom materials. Pyuwa’s master’s project, Dee-ni’ Mee-ne’ Wee-ya’ Lhetlh-xat: Dee-ni’ Home Language Class, also a product of the project, supports Tolowa families and learners of Tolowa in the home. It provides a model for learners of other endangered languages.

Because of his involvement in the project, Pyuwa presented on Tolowa Language Revitalization efforts at the 2012 Athabaskan (Dene) language conference. His presentation focused on the two sides of language revitalization –  language documentation and language learning. In addition to speaking about linguistic documentation of Tolowa Dee-ni’, Pyuwa discussed language teaching and learning strategies in the Tolowa Dee-ni’ community. This included the Tolowa Master Apprentice programs; Accelerated Second Language Acquisition methods and communicative language strategies in Del Norte High School, and he introduced the concept of Reclaiming Domains, work the Northwest Indian Language Institute is focusing on which includes language learning in the home as well as in language classes.

Undoubtedly, the most important aspect of the project is that it contains the final recordings of the last fluent speakers of Tolowa Dee-ni’, Margaret Dee-’ishlh-ne Brooks and Eunice Xash-wee-tes-na Bommelyn. The project is a tribute to both Tolowa elders as they both passed during the project.

National Endowment for the Arts

Native Language -Arts Apprenticeship Program

This project, focused on Grand Ronde Basketry and the Chinuk Wawa language, is a collaboration between the Oregon Folklife Network at UO, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and NILI. The project integrates revitalizations of language and weaving traditions, and brings heritage language speakers and traditional basket weavers together to teach Grand Ronde basketry traditions and weaving in the Chinuk Wawa language. The project includes curriculum development that will result in materials for all ages. It will also document the revitalization successes and challenges at Grand Ronde. The project’s materials will be made available at NILI’s, OFN’s and Grand Ronde’s web sites.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Ichishkiin Culture and Language as Protective Factors: A Foundation of Wellness

This project is a collaboration between NILI, the Yakama Nation Language Program, the Yakama Reservation Wellness Coalition, and three school districts on the Yakama Nation. The goal of the program is to increase self-esteem, cultural pride and drug and alcohol free lifestyles in our YN at-risk teenagers. With tribal teachers and NILI Summer Institute students, the team is developing culture-based curriculum centered around traditional foods and nutrition, longhouse protocol and legends that link powerful moral lessons with sites on the Reservation. This fall we administered our evaluation measure at two high schools in Toppenish, Washington – EAGLE and the Yakama Nation Tribal School’s high school – which was developed by the team last year. It assesses the effectiveness of language and cultural teachings in preventing drug and alcohol abuse among Native youth and it looks at the relationship between language and cultural teaching and increased self-esteem and self-worth in Native youth. We will begin developing an Ichishkiin language measure this year.

The Takelma Language Restoration Project

This overall project will result in materials that will teach basic Takelma vocabulary and grammar to interested members of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. The currently available materials are publications and notes from more than a century ago, collected by linguist Edward Sapir. Sapir worked with Mrs. Frances Johnson, a Takelma speaker, in 1906. Sapir’s work was intended purely as a basis for linguistic research, with no thought that anyone might ever want to use it as a practical guide to the language. Our primary task for this phase of the project is to reorganize Sapir’s materials into an organized, searchable  database.

The major activities of the first phase of the project will be to create a useable spelling system for the language; convert Takelma words, sentences, and stories in Sapir’s materials into this system and enter them into a linguistic software package; prepare a few sample teaching modules as examples of what kinds of things can be done with the database.

We are happy to partner with the Tribe to bring this language to a new generation of learners and speakers.

NILI Distance Education Initiative

Beginning Fall 2012, NILI has been involved in a Distance Education (DE) initiative. The goal of this work is to develop a sustainable model of Native language teaching and Native teacher training using video conferencing, online openly available course-sites, as well as other web centered applications. Based on surveys and interviews with past NILI Summer Institute participants, and thanks to the generous funding from the Senior Vice  Provost of Academic Affairs and the Fithian Family Foundation , the project is now up and running, addressing the needs of the communities NILI serves.

As part of the start-up of work on this initiative, NILI is currently planning a DE class bringing the various dispersed Sahaptin/Ichishkiin speaking communities together from Yakama, Warm Springs and Umatilla. These communities will join undergraduate students learning 2nd year Ichishkiin at the University of Oregon. The class, team taught by Virginia Beavert and Joana Jansen, includes virtual visits from language teachers and speakers who normally would not be able to take part due to distance. Blending the UO’s second year class with Heritage University’s first year class taught by Greg Sutterlict on the Yakama Nation is another DE element that would not have been possible in the past.

“We are creating a community of learners that bridges the traditional boundaries of the classroom,” says Robert Elliott, the project’s producer. Among other unusually rich opportunities, students will have a chance to visit the Yakama Nation this fall and other sites over the year. “This is a unique chance to bring the teaching of the language into and onto the lands where it was traditionally spoken,” says Dr. Jansen.

Dr. Virginia Beavert has long dreamed of this opportunity to bring Ichishkiin language learners and speakers together. The technology is finally ready to make her dream a reality.

Chinuk Wawa Distance Education Program

The Chinuk Wawa language program supported by Lane Community College, in Eugene, is a collaboration between Lane, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and NILI. In its sixth year, the program serves UO, Lane and Portland State undergraduate and graduate students, and also community members on the Grand Ronde Reservation and in the Portland and Eugene areas with 100 and 200 level classes. All of the instructional staff are connected to the language program at Grand Ronde and to NILI and are committed to the revitalization of Chinuk Wawa as a lingua-franca of the Northwest. We hope to develop a third year self-study of Chinuk Wawa studies in texts, grammar and conversation at the World Languages Academy at UO for Fall 2013.

Project Archives