Promotion of Community Wellness Through Language Activism & Revitalization: A Student Perspective

Desrosier, Jesse
Yarbrough, Danielle
Big Knife, Kaylene
Lahr, Jake
Kipp, Willow
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Sacred Roots Language Society (SRLS) is a student led organization which believes in the importance of establishing one’s identity through language and organizes community based activities to bring awareness to the endangered status of Montana's indigenous languages. Through our collaborations with the Missoula community, we have been able to establish a space within the university setting that provides Native students the opportunity to represent and advocate for their languages. Language activism at the college level provides a unique opportunity for students’ personal development, as this can be many students’ first time away from home, and is a critical stage in the development of one’s identity. Our society’s membership varies from local immersion school graduates, to linguistic majors, language speakers, future teachers, and those simply interested in indigenous language. It is a key focus of ours to represent the 11 different indigenous languages of Montana by providing a supportive community committed to representing this diversity both on and off campus. Since our creation in January of 2015, SRLS has fundraised and organized several local community events in addition to online advocacy. The first project undertaken by our society was a Valentine’s Day video featuring the phrase “I love you” in 10 different indigenous languages, with nearly 8,000 views, it was featured on the popular site UpWorthy. Our two larger annual events include a 5k “Save Our Languages” fun run (runners ranged from grade school aged youth to elders) and a community oriented language and culture conference. At the conference, students and community members alike had the opportunity to network with others to share ideas on how each tribe was approaching language revitalization within their communities. Our efforts of working together with other student groups, local tribal communities, and several indigenous non-profit organizations have strengthened relationships which have lead language revitalization efforts to prosper and, ultimately, a greater exchange of knowledge between our communities. We look forward to sharing our model for community involvement, language advocacy, and language revitalization as an example of how students across the nation can shape, support, and strategize their language revitalization efforts.
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