Friday, March 23, 2018

Doris Plainfeather Stewart teaches Chickadee Lodge Immersion School kindergartners how to refer to family members in the Crow language. Plainfeather Stewart and her assistant Nyla Pretty Paint Bullinsight are the first two teachers at the school, which opened on Jan. 3.

Nurturing Crow fluency

Chickadee Lodge founded to preserve Crow language
As part of Little Big Horn College’s ongoing efforts to strengthen Crow language comprehension among tribal members, they have opened the Chickadee Lodge Immersion School in Crow Agency for 20 students. Chickadee Lodge, taught on a daily basis in Crow Agency Public School, is set to cover 1,050 hours of language immersion in the first year.
Collaborators in the Chickadee Lodge project include Crow School Principal Jason Cummins, and Dr. Janine Pease and program director Frederica Lefthand of Little Big Horn College. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Esther Martinez Immersion grant, which awarded Little Big Horn College nearly $300,000 in fiscal year 2017 for the project. Chickadee Lodge is set to receive the Esther Martinez grant until 2020. Teaching materials are provided with help from The Language Conservancy.
There used to be a time when 80 percent of the Crow Reservation population could speak their native language, according to Pease, but “that’s not happening anymore.” She has been heavily involved in projects over the years aimed at preserving Crow.
“It’s no longer being taught to children,” she said. “Many of the parents are semi-fluent or they understand. So we are hoping – and the parents have said this to us – we are hoping to turn our language capacity around. I’m excited to have my opportunity to help with that.”
The program is built for a kindergarten level, though older generations also are part of this effort. Parents of each child must attend family language learning activities two times per month. This is for the benefit of the students, as it gives the parents knowledge to help with their children’s education. Chickadee Lodge organizers intend to fully develop Crow language skills up to second grade.
Along with Chickadee Lodge, Little Big Horn College also helps organize Crow Summer Institute classes in June to teach adults the Crow language.
Chickadee Lodge, aside from the language component, is taught like any other school, starting at 8 a.m. and going until 3:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are provided, and the school follows the state curriculum for the kindergarten grade, this time translated into Crow.
Classes are taught by Doris Plainfeather Stewart with assistance from Nyla Pretty Paint Bullinsight.
For more information on Chickadee Lodge, visit their Facebook page at