Our Mother Tongues Blog

Our Mother Tongues and WE STILL LIVE HERE Featured in Indigenous Refugee Youth Workshop

March 29, 2012 - 10:33 AM | by Our Mother Tongues

Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program and the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP) this month hosted a day-long workshop for more than 70 teens from Vietnam at the Montagnyard Pinecroft Learning Center and Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.


“We were invited by the Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization based in Amsterdam to meet with the Greensboro tribal youth group about film, web, and language revitalization projects they can implement locally through their youth and community associations.  The students were really eager to learn about Indigenous cultures and languages in the U.S., so we used OurMotherTongues.org and a series of film clips to explore Indian Country’s diversity – with a special focus on master-apprentice and other language immersion programs like the Euchee's, Sauk's, and Wampanoag's,” said Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota), who manages Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program.


Tracy Kelley, a full-time language apprentice with WLRP opened the morning with a prayer in the Wampanoag language, and helped Weston introduce WE STILL LIVE HERE to the group to open the afternoon session. Both Weston and Kelley talked at length with the students about their home communities’ unique histories and languages, using maps, images and the Our Mother Tongues Voices page to demonstrate the vast diversity of Indigenous languages and cultures found throughout the U.S. Most of the students are multilingual, speaking one or more tribal languages from Vietnam, and all are learning English. Kelley and Weston urged the teens to retain their tribal languages and take pride in their unique heritage.


Montagnyard tribal communities often experience severe discrimination in Vietnam based on their historic collaboration with U.S. armed forces during the years leading up to and during the Vietnam War, so the students were interested to learn more about the long history of conflict and treaties over tribal homelands that eventually became part of the United States of America.


“I want to learn more about Sitting Bull and the Little Bighorn,” said one youth, his eyes lighting up during introductions. Each young person was asked to speak their name in their tribal language, and if possible, state in English something they hoped to learn by the end of the day. The students with advanced English skills also submitted written evaluations and many warmly invited their presenters to return soon. “Thank you for coming and spending your time to teach us,” read one. “ I am so thankful for what you did. I learned how important it is [to speak our mother tongues], and how brave those people are to stand firm.  Thank you!”


Read more and see photos from the day here.

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