Southern Ute Grassroots Language Revitalization

Oberly, Stacey
White, Dedra
Millich, Arlene
Cloud, Mary Inez
Seibel, Lillian
Ivey, Crystal
Cloud, Lorelei
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University of Hawaii Press
Southern Ute is a severely endangered Uto-Aztecan language spoken in southwestern Colorado by forty speakers out of a tribe of around 1,400. In 2011, a small group of adult tribal members with a strong desire to learn Ute as a second language began a collaborative, community-based, grassroots language revitalization and repatriation project on the Southern Ute reservation. This case study provides insight into language endangerment and revitalization, language ideologies, linguistic identity, revitalization pedagogy, and language as power. During this project the group encountered challenges typical of endangered language revitalization such as lack of teaching material, the contradictory role of writing in gaining fluency in an endangered language, the transition of a speaker to a teacher, and differing views of effective language learning methods. A total of eighty-nine community members ranging in age from two to eighty-seven years participated in this project. The diversity of students created a pedagogical situation in which the range of objectives, learning styles, and interest levels required adaptation and flexibility. We discuss possible solutions to these challenges. We also provide insight into the tenacity of heritage language learners who continue to fight for linguistic self-determination and justice, even when faced with opposition from their tribal government and community.
grassroots language revitalization, collaborative language activism, Endangered languages, endangered language pedagogy, Ute, Uto-Aztecan languages, Southern Numic
Oberly, Stacey, Dedra White, Arlene Millich, Mary Inez Cloud, Lillian Seibel, Crystal Ivey & Lorelei Cloud. 2015. Southern Ute Grassroots Language Revitalization. Language Documentation & Conservation 9. 324-343.
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