is home to many languages; but all of them are endangered. They
range from Modoc with no remaining speakers to Cherokee with several
thousand. All are in a declining state of use, being crowded out
of existence by English. Like endangered species, endangered languages
are in danger of extinction; and once lost, they can never been
recreated. When languages die, the associated culture and history
and part of Indian identity are lost as well. One-third of Oklahoma's
Indian languages are already gone.
are ongoing efforts by most tribes to reverse the process by teaching
and documenting their languages of heritage. These include classes
in public schools and universities, community-based and tribally
funded programs in local communities, government-funded initiatives,
and individual efforts operating with no funding whatsoever. Yet
the remaining speakers are still dying at a rate that far exceeds
the rate of languages renewal. More funding, technical assistance,
classrooms, and teaching materials are urgently needed. In some
tribes the last remaining speakers are in their 80s; in very few
are there any children growing up with native fluency.
does I.W.S. do?
assist Oklahoma language preservation with:
and educational programs for the general public
of language-related items
training and publications
on alphabets, materials, and curricula.
Celebration of Oklahoma Indian Language and Culture, held
in Norman the second Friday before Halloween.
is guided by key beliefs about languages, learning, and teaching:
Oklahoma Indian languages are threatened, and the survival of each
link between language and culture is crucial, and the two need to
be taught together.
key to language survival is the transmission of the language from
generation to generation in daily life. Therefore it is essential
that the remaining fluent elders teach the children of today their
languages of heritage, so that this generational link can be reestablished.
governments and schools can play a very important role in language
survival, individual language teachers, language learners, and community
programs not affiliated with such institutions are just as important.
help programs become self-sustaining once they are underway.
are non-discriminatory in our dealings with individuals of different
tribal, geographic, and dialect backgrounds -- encouraging cooperation
operative in an earth-friendly way, up to the limits of our budget.
What You Can Do
Intertribal Wordpath Society is leading the way -- fighting for the
survival of these precious cultural resources. Our name says it; we
must be warriors fighting for Indian languages. We ask you to help
in these ways:
Oklahoma Indian language teachers and preservationists about IWS.
Contact us for additional copies of the brochure.
us your financial support. We need contributions of all sizes.
us if you would like to be an IWS volunteer, including joining the
Wordpath television crew.
us about internship opportunities.