FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 2, 2016
Wil Meya, Executive Director, The Language Conservancy
MACY, Neb. — Facing eminent extinction with only an estimated 12 fluent speakers, the native language of the Omaha tribe will be the focus of a revitalization effort centered within the tribe’s public schools. The project, developed by The Language Conservancy and supported by a $100,000 W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant, will develop a pre-K through high school language education program in Nebraska with the Umóⁿhoⁿ (Omaha) Nation Public School, the Walthill Public School and the Omaha Tribal Education Department.
Only about 150 people speak or understand parts of the language and elders and teachers associated with the Omaha tribe said the remaining fluent speakers are all over 70 years old, according to Wil Meya, executive director of The Language Conservancy.
“Thanks to the support of the Kellogg Foundation we have the unique opportunity to begin a program of recovery and revitalization of a native language that is on the precipice of extinction,” Meya said. “When we lose a language we lose culture, history, knowledge and a unique way of looking at the world.”
The project will lead to the creation of an introductory level textbook and accompanying audio CD that will be distributed for free to the participating Omaha reservation schools. A teacher training course will be conducted and language pre-tests and post-tests for students will also be developed and conducted.
“Tribal members and educational institutions of the Omaha tribe have been struggling to create teaching materials to aid in the resurgence of our language, said Vida Stabler, director of the Umóⁿhon (Omaha) Nation Public School Indian Education Program. The tribe is based in Macy, Neb., and has over 7,000 members nationally.
“With textbooks and audio CDs created in part from interviews and recordings with the tribe’s remaining Elders we will have additional resources to teach, grow and increase daily use of our Omaha language,” Stabler said. “We’re trying to rescue far more than our endangered language, but our unique culture which also is a significant piece of American history and culture.”
The project design created a partnership with the Indian Education Department at Omaha Nation Public School and will partner with the Nebraska Indian Community College for future training events.
The United Nations estimates that of the world’s 6,000 different languages, over 40 percent – about 2,571 – are endangered, including 191 in the United States.
The Language Conservancy (TLC) is a nonprofit organization based in Bloomington, Ind., that is leading the revitalization of endangered Native American languages across the U.S. by providing critical support to tribal education departments, schools, and by increasing public awareness on the crisis of disappearing languages. @LangConservancy