Nebraska Winnebago release HoChunk Vocab Builder


Nov. 9, 2016

WINNEBAGO, Neb. – The endangered HoChunk language of Nebraska’s Winnebago tribe will tomorrow take a technological step toward resiliency and revival with the release of the HoChunk Vocab Builder, a new language vocabulary app for both Android and iOS devices.

The free app, which includes 40 categories of HoChunk words and phrases, will officially be released tomorrow during a launch party at the Blackhawk Community Center in downtown Winnebago, said Lewis “Bleu” St. Cyr, director of the Winnebago Tribe’s HoChunk Renaissance Program.

“The Winnebago are seeing that the use of digital tools can be used to enhance our revitalization efforts,” St. Cyr said. “Our staff here at the Renaissance Program are creative, innovative individuals and their contributions and ideas are helping retain and grow the tribal community’s interest in the HoChunk language.”hochunk-vocab-app-feature

In addition to the HoChunk vocabulary app, which was developed with the assistance of the Native American language rescue non-profit The Language Conservancy, the Winnebago have also been utilizing tools like Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and virtual gaming to facilitate HoChunk language revitalization, St. Cyr added.

“We are also restructuring our language curriculum at various levels, from pre-school and elementary to high school and college-level, in addition to preparing to act as hosts for structured community courses within the next year,” St. Cyr said.

The app contains over 400 words and phrases with audio pronunciation and visual aids for each; HoChunk-to-English and English-to-HoChunk word match quizzes; proficiency tracking; and a points-based level-to-level achievement program that uses repetition as a learning strategy. Four fluent HoChunk speakers of the Winnebago tribe assisted with development of the content used in the app.

HoChunk Renaissance project manager Michelle Lamere said the app launch event at the Blackhawk Community Center would run from 3-7 p.m. and that visitors would be able to receive help downloading the app and with assistance using it. Expect a festive environment, as gift bags and t-shirts will be given away, there will be face-painting and a balloon-twisting artist, along with games and food.

“We’re looking forward to having a fun and successful launch,” Lamere said.

The app is available at both the Google Play store and at Apple’s iTunes store by searching for HoChunk Vocab Builder.

Wil Meya, executive director of the The Language Conservancy, said the new HoChunk app was designed for versatility and ease of use. The non-profit so far has developed language apps in both Android and iOS formats for the Arikara, Crow, Hidatsa, Lakota and Mandan, and apps are currently in design for the Assiniboine, Omaha and Yanktonai Dakota tribes.

“This is a culturally-relevant learning tool that you can use on your own, in coordination with a language learning class or as a learning tool for use by parents, caregivers and teachers,” Meya said.

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.

HoChunk Renaissance is a language and culture program of the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska that  provides accessible language-learning tools and resources – textbooks, apps, dictionaries and more – to help preserve HoChunk. Twitter: @hochunklanguage.

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. Twitter: @LangConservancy