Immersion students win trophies at language fair
Sixth grade students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School dance to the song “The Twist” while singing the song’s lyrics in Cherokee. The class won first place for its performance during the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Language Immersion School sixth graders show off their first place trophy for winning the Sixth through Eighth Grade Large Group Song category at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. From left are Lauren Hummingbird, Alayna Harkreader, Maggie Sourjohn, Sean Sikora, Cambria Bird, Cree Drowningbear, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson and Cheyenne Drowningbear. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
NORMAN, Okla. – Students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School did well during competition April 2-3 at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma.
The theme of this year’s fair, which hosted about 600 students from more than 20 Oklahoma tribes, was “I Am My Language.” Along with showing off language skills, students also had the opportunity to compete in art, essay and poetry competitions using their respective languages.
The immersion school’s second, fifth and sixth grades won first place awards for their respective performances using the Cherokee language. The school’s first graders won second place for their presentation and the kindergarten class received a fourth place prize. The performances were judged on use and knowledge of language and creativity.
The immersion school also placed in the film and video competitions. The sixth grade won first place for its “Tsalagi” DVD produced in the Cherokee language. Immersion school fifth grader Jolie Morgan placed second for her Cherokee language video, and the school won third place in the Third through Sixth grade category for the video “Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi.”
The winning immersion school classes and individual winners each received a trophy, and all of the students who competed in the language fair received a medal and a T-shirt.
“Our children at the Cherokee Nation immersion program have so much fun every year. ONAYLF has been so far the only place outside the school that offers our kids a place where they can practice their language in a public setting,” said parent Andrew Sikora, whose son Sean participated at the fair with the sixth grade class. “I will not exaggerate if I say that ONAYLF is a language highlight of the year.”
Students in grades kindergarten through high school are invited to the fair, which provides a venue for them to speak their Native languages publicly. The event also gives students the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothing and regalia.
Judges for the fair’s competitions are volunteers from Oklahoma tribes who speak or appreciate their Native languages.
CN citizen Christine Armer once served as a judge for the fair but now coordinates it. She is a Cherokee language professor at OU and said the fair is one of her favorite events of year because it brings her joy to see youth interested in their culture and language.
“My grandfather once told me that language is who you are,” she said.
She said if the next generations of students take an interest in their languages and see their importance, there’s hope that the cultural values found in Native American languages will be around for many generations.
Languages represented at the fair included Apache, Arapaho, Cayuga, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Coushatta, Dakota, Euchee, Hasinai (Caddo), Ho-Chunk, Jiwere (Otoe), Kanza (Kaw), Keres, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Mohawk, Muskogee (Creek), Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Pima, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Sauk, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Shoshone, Ute, Wichita and Zuni.
For more information about the language fair, visit http://nal.snomnh.ou.edu/onaylf
or visit the fair’s Facebook page.