February 27th, 2009
Yakama elder Virginia Beavert, 87, is teaching the Yakama Sahaptin language for the first time this year at the University of Oregon. She is a native speaker. This is not your typical foreign language class. “There are no textbooks, no study-abroad programs, no dubbed TV shows, and the instructor is one of only 200 people who can converse in the target language. . . .
Much of the reason for the disappearance of American Indian languages lies in government-run and religious boarding schools in the 1880s through 1920s. As part of a philosophy to â€œkill the Indian and save the man,â€ children were rounded up and sent to schools where they were expected to discard their clothing and hairstyles, convert to Christianity and speak only English. Many were punished severely for speaking in their native languages.”
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