It’s my pleasure to introduce two current LTS students: Shayleen EagleSpeaker and Brittany Parham. Both come to the LTS program via the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI).
Please tell the world a little bit about yourself:
My name is Shayleen EagleSpeaker (Wasco, member of Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs). My heritage language is Kiksht. Our people are from the Columbia River, both sides of the river. My grandmother was a fluent speaker of Kiksht and she passed away in the mid 1990s. Today there are no longer fluent native speakers of Kiksht, but I am learning. I heard about the LTS program through Northwest Indian Language Institute about 5 years ago. I graduated from UO with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Printmaking in 2014 and I returned to LTS in summer of 2017 to further pursue a career in teaching Native languages.
My name is Brittany Parham. I was born and raised in Eugene. I received my BA in Linguistics from the University of Oregon in 2016 and have been studying Ichishkíin for 3 ½ years.
Have you been enjoying the LTS program so far?
Brittany: Yes, of course!
Shayleen: LTS is awesome! I am so glad to be in a program that is flexible for Native American languages. It’s also a great cohort, all the people have a very nice quality that is great for the sense of community. I think it is interesting to experience how we relate through our coursework, and watching each other go through this learning process is pretty wonderful. I have learned so much already, and it is really expanding my understanding of how to teach second languages.
What are you hoping to learn in the program?
Brittany: I want to learn some better tools to use in order to support Ichishkíin learners and teachers. I hope to create more curriculum and materials for the classroom, create teacher training resources, and learn the methods and techniques to be an effective language teacher.
Shayleen: I am hoping to learn a lot more Kiksht language and to network with people and organizations that support the kind of work that I am trying to do. I want teachers of Native languages to have opportunities for success. What I have learned in the past is that when Native language teachers are supported in their communities, and supportive of each other, they really seem to enjoy their work and their working relationships. I have found a lot of positive energy and joy in these relationships and I want to make a positive impact by being supportive of others.
And I know you both work closely with NILI…What exactly is NILI and why is it so important to you?
Brittany: NILI stands for the Northwest Indian Language Institute. It was formed in 1997 by tribal requests for Native language teacher training programs. NILI provides training in applied language training in linguistics during our yearly Summer Institute, as was as providing consultations to tribes in the areas of language program design, assessment, policy, linguistics, language documenting and archiving and grant writing. NILI is important to me for so many reasons! I love being a part of something as important as NILI, and being surrounded by so many amazing and influential people. I would not be where I am today without the guidance and influence of NILI!
Shayleen: I first became involved in NILI because I was taking Chinuk Wawa (Columbia River trade jargon) language classes at Lane Community College. My instructor for that class was Dr. Janne Underrinner, who is Director of NILI and pretty much of the main founders of NILI. I was really inspired by what NILI had to offer for two reasons: 1) I had been wanting to learn my heritage language my whole life and I never expected in a million years that I would have the opportunity to do so in an American college or university, and 2) the way that NILI functions is very culturally sensitive and they also do an excellent job at it. After graduating from LCC with an associate’s degree I participated in my first NILI summer institute, then transferred to University of Oregon where I majored in Fine Art but also took 2 years of Ichishkíin (Yakima Sahaptin) language. Both Chinuk Wawa and Ichishkíin are heritage languages to me. I am Wasco, and my people historically have been very multi-lingual. Our primary language, however, is Kiksht (Upper Chinookan) and I am learning that language now, through independent study at UO. This is literally a dream come true for me! I feel like NILI was a huge catalyst in making that happen for me.
So what projects are you hoping to work on?
Shayleen: Right now, I have some ideas about what I want to do while I’m in the LTS program, but I also realize I need to keep my options open and be open to learning because there may be opportunities that I don’t know about yet. I am hoping to gain more administrative skills because a lot of Native language teaching requires opportunities to teach and in my context, I believe I will have to be creating some of those opportunities for myself and I hope to be able to do that for others as well. I am also really interested in research opportunities for my language, including linguistic research. Right now, I need to get a grasp on fundamentals of linguistics, which is what I am working on in courses I’m taking. That involves a lot of reading and background knowledge. Beyond that I think I’ll be open to different project ideas that I will learn about throughout the LTS training.
Brittany: I am hoping to work on creating an online resource for teachers of the language to connect, collaborate and share resources more easily.
How can people help with the preservation and restoration of these incredible languages?
Brittany: People can help by educating themselves about the indigenous peoples locally and beyond. And everyone is welcome to volunteer at our Summer Institute!
Shayleen: I think just people sharing an interest of these languages helps tremendously. When people take the time to learn little bit about Native language preservation and restoration, they are doing a service to the larger community. The Pacific Northwest is historically one of the most linguistically diverse places in the world, so when people support these languages, they are supporting the cultural diversity of this beautiful place. The rate of decline of these languages is one of the fastest in the world as well, so we stand to lose about half of our languages in the United States by the next 50 years. In other words, we are at the top of the list for having the most to lose with regards to languages lost. I want people to know about that and share that information in a positive and supportive way, because the time is right now to make efforts to preserve these languages. Preservation includes documentation and training for archival work, and ideally, teaching it to children who can grow up with Native languages, which is a method called language revitalization. Promoting these activities is the best way to help, whether that means sharing information about opportunities and activity with your networks, or becoming involved in the Native language community, or even by sharing this background info with people who might not know about it. Also, support any education programs that may support Native language revitalization. I think Oregon just passed a law about teaching appropriate Native American curriculum, but that could also extend into languages, where culturally sensitive and appropriate.
Any final thoughts?
Shayleen: It has been really nice to meet people in the LTS program who are from all different walks of life. I have been able to share information about Native languages and to hear the feedback that most people are very interested in it and I really appreciate that! It has been nice be a part of the LTS community as a forum to talk about various language contexts and I think we will all benefit greatly from it because it will help us to create a sense of community as future language teachers. So, I think that the community aspect of the LTS cohort is very important.
Brittany: If you want more information about NILI, check out our webpage!
Thank you two so much for taking the time to introduce yourselves and share your passion for this very important topic!