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7. Overheard on the Web

Ray Kiogima, co-author of "Odawa Language and Legends," from the Odawa Bands Governmental Center in Harbor Springs

by Craig McCool

HARBOR SPRINGS - Ray Kiogima rarely gets a chance anymore to talk with others in his native language.

The number of people who speak Odawa has dwindled over the years. Now, Kiogima said, you could count on a single hand the number of locals who are fluent in the old language.

"In the tribe, we've probably got four people besides me," Kiogima said. "I used to enjoy talking Odawa to people who were fluent in it, but they die off."

Kiogima, 73, an elder with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, has done something about it, recently publishing a book containing Odawa/English translations of more than 1,000 common words and hundreds of phrases. The book, "Odawa Language and Legends," is the culmination of decades of work.

It is the only known instance in which the regional Native American language has been translated to English. Kiogima broke down the Odawa words - historically spoken but rarely written - to their syllable sounds, then transcribed them, phonetically, into English equivalents.

Ah-nee, for example, means "Hello." There is no Odawa word for Goodbye, Kiogima, said. The closest thing is Bah mah pee: "Later."

The language of the Odawa people is apparent everywhere in northern Michigan. The word Cheboygan, for example, comes from the Odawa phrase Zhah boo guhn, or "The way through."

But while traces of the language are ever-present, the heart of the language is dying, said Carla McFall, who runs the Little Traverse Bay Band's language preservation and revitalization program.

"Ray's generation is the last generation that is fairly fluent," McFall said. "This is the very last chance" to preserve the language.

Kiogima - Ki means 'land'; Ogima means 'boss' or 'ruler' - lived as a teenager in Harbor Springs with his grandmother, who spoke little English and insisted her grandson become fluent in Odawa.

"She told me right out that if I was going to live with her and talk to her, I was going to talk Odawa," Kiogima said.

His five brothers also learned Odawa, but only Kiogima retained the knowledge into adulthood. He taught his own children a few words, but realized that, by-and-large, the younger generation would never learn the language.

"I thought, if we can write it, we can preserve it, and that's what I want," he said. "It's always been a dream of mine, to have it written down. We want to get it to the younger crowd."

Preserving and resurrecting the language is important, said McFall.

"A people is defined by its language," she said. "Without it, we lose a lot. Not just the language, but culturally as well."

Kiogima offered an analogy: "It would be like a person without a home or a man without a country," he said. "He would be lost."

Translation? "Kah mah-buh duh yah zeen gojibi wah daht." "This man has nowhere to live."

Venezuela Revitalizes Indigenous Culture - Anu

Caracas, 10 May 2006 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan experts and officials supported by the UN Children´s Fund (UNICEF) will meet in Maracaibo on Thursday to revitalize the "Anu" culture and language.

Indigenous communitarian promoters, teachers and other officials of the Education Ministry and the Venezuelan Central and Zuli universities will converge at this important meeting.

The preservation and recovery of the "Anu" culture and language are part of the great national efforts in the field of Bilingual and Intercultural Education.

This process of revitalization includes the development of actions to contribute with the linguistic training of professionals and the creation of didactic aids and methods to be used at classrooms.

Thus, the process becomes perfect opportunity to open new spaces for the interchange among the communitarian factors, main promoters of the initiative.

‘Language Planning Challenges and Prospects in Native American Communities and Schools’ (Feb 2006)

Mary Eunice Romero Little ( of Arizona State University and Alex Molnar (, of Education Policy Studies Laboratory share the result of their study on ‘Language Planning Challenges and Prospects in Native American Communities and Schools’ (February 2006)

The authors point to the advantages of learning heritage language:

• Heritage-language immersion is a viable alternative to English-only instruction for Native students who are English-dominant but identified as limited English proficient.
• Time spent learning a heritage/community language is not time lost in developing English, while the absence of sustained heritage-language instruction contributes significantly to heritage-language loss.
• It takes approximately five to seven years to acquire age-appropriate proficiency in a heritage (second) language when consistent and comprehensive opportunities in the heritage (second) language are provided.
• Heritage-language immersion contributes to positive child-adult interaction and helps restore and strengthen Native languages, familial relationships, and cultural traditions within the community.
• Literacy skills first developed in a heritage language can be effectively transferred to English, even for students with limited proficiency in the heritage language upon entering school.
• Additive or enrichment language education programs represent the most promising approach to heritage- and second-language instruction.
• The aforementioned LPP efforts are fundamental to tribal sovereignty and local education choice.