Native tribal members working together on keeping ancestral language alive


TOPPENISH, Wash.--Native American tribes from all over the region are working together to come up with ways to preserve their ancestral language.

Preserving their history by influencing the present was on the minds of tribal members who gathered at Heritage University for the annual gathering of Ichishkiin teachers.

Education leaders say Ichishkiin, which is the ancestral language of the Yakama Nation, is in critical danger of being lost forever.

The only hope is to teach the younger generation these important words.

"To get more younger people using the language and then get inter-generational use between elders and children and put it back in the home and in the community," said Heritage University Language Center Director Gregory Sutterlict.

On Tuesday, activities and discussions were held about how to best keep this sacred language alive.

Natives members say they're trying to right the wrongs their ancestors experienced in the past.

"There was generation upon generation of people that were trying to stomp out the language and the culture," said Sutterlict.

That influenced Virginia Beavert, an elder who was born speaking Ichishkiin, to teach others the beauty of her native tongue.

"I had to step out of that and become independent and it wasn't very well received for quite a while," said Beavert.

But younger kids, like Trenton Whitefoot, are starting to take notice.

He's been learning Ichishkiin for the past two years from a teacher in Wapato, similar to other classes being taught around the region.

"If we lose our language, we lose a part of who we are and our language is what our tribe relies on and I want to keep that alive," he said.

A message that everyone hopes will reach more young people moving forward.

This is the fourth annual gathering of these Native tribal members, which also included some people from Oregon.

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