Language Summit celebrates a living culture
By Jerry W. Kram
The Nueta, Hidatsa and Sahnish people lived along the Missouri River for centuries. The Mandan were here to welcome Lewis and Clark on their historic exploration and teach them how to survive the vicious North Dakota winter. The Arikara (Sahnish) provided scouts to the U.S. Calvary for more than 30 years in the 19th Century and some of them died with Custer at Little Big Horn. The Hidatsa have songs honoring the warriors who have fought in every U.S. war for a century, even before they were considered citizens.
That history came alive at the New Town High School last Saturday when the Three Affiliated Tribes Boys and Girls Club held a Language Summit, marking the culmination of a three year project to preserve and strengthen the culture of the three tribes.
The core of the language preservation project was to bring together six fluent speakers of the three languages to mentor 12 young people who were willing to take a significant amount time to spend with their mentors and learn the language through immersion, that is speaking nothing but the native languages.
"The master speakers and apprentices have been working together for three years," said Shannon Nash, who coordinated the project for the Boys and Girls Club. "Each master speaker worked to bring the apprentice up to the point where they can carry on a conversation and hopefully will someday be fluent. We want to get more young speakers in the community."