Posted By mathias on October 7, 2011
Ich nuu’apag’apü uruskwa’èi.
The Ute language is disappearing.
…especially among the Southern Utes, where a handful of people can understand a little bit, but only a dozen or so speak it natively. Ute Mountain Utes – situated in an area with fewer non-Ute landowners – have more speakers, but even they number fewer than 525/2,100. The number of fluent speakers is declining, and along with the language’s death goes the spirituality of the people as expressed through their traditional songs and rituals. The issue has gotten many prominent Utes concerned, namely:
• Lynda Grove D’Wolf, language and culture teacher for Southern Ute tribal members
• Pearl Casias, Southern Ute chairwoman (fluent in Ute)
• Manuel Heart, Ute Mountain Ute council member
• Stacie Oberly, Southern Ute Culture Department Director
So far, Northern Utes have built a school for high-school-aged children that teaches language and culture, and the Southern Utes the same for preschool and elementary children. Ute Mountain Utes hope for a middle school curriculum to close the gap, within the next decade. One of the difficulties faced is finding fluent speakers qualified to teach in Colorado public schools.
Hopefully the 2011 National Native Language Revitalization Summit this summer on Capitol Hill are encouraging collaboration will result in increased funding for Native language programs. What is more imperative according to Oberly, is to establish consistency in teaching efforts across the community.