Vol. LIV No. 8
August 2019

Our Chickasaw language programs are getting great results


Step back in time for a moment and imagine you are being raised in a home where the primary language is Chickasaw. Virtually all words spoken to you as a child at home are Chickasaw. You formulate thoughts in your native language, and you find yourself speaking the language easily and intuitively.

This scenario was still common in the Chickasaw Nation just 60 to 70 years ago. Children often spoke English at school, Chickasaw at home with their parents and grandparents. Today, this is a rare occurrence.

One of the very special gifts delivered to us by our ancestors is our Chickasaw language. It came with us from the homelands during Removal, about 180 years ago. When Chickasaws first arrived in our new home, our native tongue was spoken by all Chickasaw and functioned as our primary language.

Of course, as America grew, people who spoke English only became more and more factors in our lives. And throughout the country, virtually all business was conducted in English. The environment in which we built our new homes brought with it the necessity to learn and utilize English.

Our Chickasaw language is a vital connection to our origins, and who we are as a people. Today, as we have become immersed in modern American society, the use of our original language has waned. And that makes its preservation and use more important than ever!

The Chickasaw Nation is committed to not only preserving, but growing our language among Chickasaw people. We have put forward a number of initiatives to nurture our language, and happily we are seeing some tremendous results!

For many years we have attempted to revitalize the Chickasaw language. Our capable Language Revitalization staff has created a number of ways for you to become involved with your native language. Many have already taken advantage of our language initiatives, and I hope you will too.

Our Chickasaw Language Committee is the advisory group that helps shape all our language outreach. This committee of 28 includes a number of fluent and conversational Chickasaw speakers. This committee helps keep us true to our language and offers important guidance.

Three years ago we started Chikasha Academy, a learning center for students with a desire to immerse themselves in our native language. Students attend language class for 20 hours weekly over a two-year period. This technique is showing success in producing new Chickasaw speakers who will help introduce the language back into our communities.

Chickasaw language classes are available at East Central University in Ada. These exceptional classes are taught by fluent speakers and educators who propel students on their paths to understanding the structure of our language and speaking it conversationally.

Chickasaw youth have a terrific opportunity to have lots of fun together while also learning their native language. Chipota Chikashshanompoli is the Children Speaking Chickasaw Language Club. These young students enjoy learning together and competing annually in the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the University of Oklahoma.

Most adult Chickasaws know about our Rosetta Stone Chickasaw program. This online, computer-aided language acquisition program offers excellent video-based language lessons. Thousands of users have already accessed this excellent tool. Rosetta Stone is a great way to get started on your path to speaking Chickasaw!

We also offer the Anompa language application. This app is a great way to continually improve your Chickasaw language skills. You can access Anompa by going to www.chickasaw.net/anompa, or you can access the app on your iphone at the App Store. You will find a self-study packet and a great interactive word and phrase list. Anompa is an easy-to-navigate, convenient way to learn!

Our quest is to not just preserve our language, but to make it vital once again. Today, we likely have less than 100 fluent Chickasaw speakers. Many of these elders have been very gracious to share their language and skills with us as we develop these programs for you. Right now is a perfect time to get started learning your language!

We are so pleased to report that more and more Chickasaws, particularly younger people, are participating in our language programs and becoming proficient. And there is always room for more!

Please make the decision today to honor your tribal ancestors and begin learning your native language. There can be no greater gift to future generations of Chickasaws.

Please contact our Chickasaw Language Revitalization office today. The staff works in the Culture and Humanities building adjacent to tribal headquarters in Ada. They would love to talk with you!