AMERICAN INDIANS FIGHT FOR LANGUAGES
Nina Junaluska can speak two languages — English and her native Cherokee which (1) is dying out. She (2) performed two songs in her native Cherokee at the Native Youth Language Fair last year.
Some 185 American Indian students, ranging up into adulthood, also (3) celebrated their native tongues by making presentations in 13 languages, from Cherokee and Comanche to Oneida, Navajo and Apache. Nina (4) didn't have any trouble: She (5) has been taught Cherokee since early childhood, says her mother, who taught Cherokee in schools and is now a Tribal Council member. “She (6) learnt the songs as she grew up,” Nina’s mother said. “It was passed down by our grandmother to my mother and then to us, and we (7) are passing it on to my grandson now.”
But the Junaluskas are in the minority, say organisers of the event. Tribe after tribe has seen native languages vanish. Of 300 or more indigenous languages, only 175 still (8) exist. Of those, only 20 (9) are spoken by all ages; 30 — only by adults; 125 — only by grandparents. Much of the blame for the loss lies with the assimilation efforts of the 19th century, when Indian children (10) were taken from their homes and (11) were sent to boarding schools.
At that time they (12) were forced to lose all identity as an Indian person. Indian children sometimes (13) were beaten for speaking their native language.