Saturday, January 20, 2018

Crow Summer Institute participants line up near the Little Big Horn College arbor in Crow Agency to start off this year’s two-week seminar. The seminar was created as the result of a 2011 collaboration between the Language Conservancy and Crow Language Consortium.Doris Plainfeather sings Crow lullabies recently as part of a recording session at Little Big Horn College regarding the Crow language. The college currently has hours of such tapes on file.

Trained to teach

Seminar designed to help educators bring the Crow language to a new generation
Twenty-nine local-area educators were updated on new teaching methods in regards to the Crow language during a two-week seminar, called the Crow Summer Institute, held at Little Big Horn College June 22 through July 3. In addition to informing teachers on their craft, the seminar resulted in the creation of 20-25 new Crow words in the neologism, or word formation, segment to keep the language fresh.
“Language is very much at the heart of the Crow people and our existence in everyday society,” said Dr. Janine Pease, founder of Little Big Horn College. “We’ve been an independent nation for thousands of years, and the culture and language go hand-in-hand, so it’s really the most basic part of our tribal sovereignty.”
Seminars like this, she said, will help educators teach the language to new groups of students, as the fluency rate has been declining in younger members.
The Crow word for “globe”, as of two weeks ago, is “awakootáachichiaxxe”, the word for “map” is “annáau iiéhkuua” and the word for playdough is “úukkisshe”.
The first-week seminar courses included two levels of classes on teaching methods for the Crow language, an introduction to Crow phonology (sound structure) and a course on Crow inflectional morphology (changes in the language depending on grammatical function). The second week had two classes: Process Writing I and Neologism Development I.
The seminar exists as the result of a 2011 collaboration between a Bloomington, Ind.-based nonprofit organization called the Language Conservancy and the local Crow Language Consortium.
“It started with requests by teachers and educators for a more sequenced and professionally-developed set of curriculum,” said Wilhelm Meya, executive director and chairman of the Language Conservancy. “We began working with a small number of schools and, over the last three or four years, have developed two levels of textbooks.”
The seminar’s teaching courses are designed to help educators – and later students – use the textbooks.
The Crow Language Consortium has a three-member board consisting of Fr. Randolph Graczyk of St. Charles Borromeo Mission in Pryor, Crow and Hidatsa language expert Dr. John Boyle, and Pease. Graczyk and Boyle taught many of the courses during the seminar.
Frances Takes Enemy, who teaches Crow Studies to St. Xavier students from kindergarten through eighth grade at Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy, said the courses helped her to get a better literary grasp on the language. As a person who participated in the seminar twice, she said the textbooks were especially useful in developing her reading and writing skills.
Takes Enemy grew up speaking Crow as her first language – she didn’t learn English until first grade – but she still had difficulties in putting together the written version for students during her 10 years of teaching.
“I noticed a lot of our people, they really don’t know how to read and write in the language in order to teach it,” Takes Enemy said. “There’s these marks that we do…apostrophes…we put them on words and that’s how you sound them out. Because I had a hard time with it, I never did teach it, but I’ve learned that and it will help me to write it better.”
To further preserve and expand the language, the Crow Language Consortium had native Crow speakers and students record words for an online dictionary, which she believes will be the largest yet produced. 
The recordings will accompany school learning materials.
“We’ve got hours of recordings,” she said.  “The language has moved considerably and there are some new words, so I wanted to get them recorded and be a part of all of this training.”
According to Meya, the Crow language – along with the Navajo and Zuni – has one of the most “vibrant” language communities in the United States. This, he said, will help create a “continuity of language” from one generation to the next.