This week there has been tons of media coverage on increased support for Native language classes. Alyce Spotted Bear from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in New Town – vice president of Native American Studies and Tribal Relations at Fort Berthold Community College, as well as part of the NACIE (National Advisory Council on Indian Education) – is fighting for a baccalaureate program in Native American studies that would include classes on the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara languages (and possibly some online or hybrid classroom/online lessons). These languages are extremely endangered; Mandan has only one fluent speaker, and Arikara has only three (for those wondering, Hidatsa has about 500 at least). Meanwhile, Choctaw classes are all the rave in the Arkoma school district of Oklahoma.
Although Minnesota’s Bemidji State University just cut around a tenth of their staff and programs, they aim to enhance their American Indian Resource Center, which offers Ojibwa language classes. Meanwhile, a different dialect of Ojibwa is currently being taught in Michigan public schools.
Technology is really improving Native language instruction, especially distance learning. Even if you’re not in the position to learn Ojibwa for instance, there are tons of resources online for self study. One of the best is Nish Tales: Walking & Talking With Nanabush, a series of cartoons on traditional Ojibwa life produced by the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation. You can watch the cartoons or read and hear the scripts in English or Ojibwa, and there are little interactive games designed to teach you vocabulary.