Native Youth Leadership Alliance

(Tiffany Bahnimptewa) Indigenous Language Institute Symposium 2013

This past October I attended the Indigenous Language Institute Symposium 2013.The most impactful part of this experience was seeing how various tribal communities were keeping their indigenous language alive. I saw they were using the old way of teaching (immersion) and new ways utilizing western technology through media and various teaching techniques.

Gary ʺLitefootʺ Davis (Cherokee) was the keynote speaker and one thing he mentioned that I thought was very profound was, ʺwe need to stop surviving and start living our own cultural ways.ʺ What I took from this statement was that we should not be saying poor us anymore but say ʺI’m here, right now and I know how to live my culture and I may not know it all but I have the resources right here, with my elders, to learn all I can.”

We shouldn’t forget that our elders and ancestors fought many, many years and decades for all of us to still be here today. Let us not make their fight worthless. I know for Hopi, if we lose our language, we lose our culture because the language goes hand in hand with everything we do. So that was my encouragement to start using my language as much as I can, and also not to be afraid to use western technology to help with that.

I also learned various ways other tribal communities are teaching language. Through hands on learning, picture to word, word to picture, sentence building techniques, media uses (digital storytelling, music/song, videos etc.) I could incorporate all these techniques in the work I do because I realized that sometimes we forget to include language. I don’t want to forget that we can also teach.

Itam pu’ Hisatsinmuy navotiamuy nit lavayiyamuy angkw tutuqay’ya, hin itam itaa sinom akw haqami yeesiwni…

-Learn about your ancestors and the messages that they left for us for the future of our people.

Peetum uma himusino, uma hapi u’muu lavayi qa suu’tokni….. Pam itaa qatsi. Tsangaw uma himusino….

-Those of you who know your language, don’t forget your language, it is our life, you are very fortunate to be who you are


Check out Tiffany’s NYLA Profile