March 4, 2012

As Elders Pass, Wind River Indian Reservation Teachers Turn to Technology To Preserve Shoshone Language


As elders pass, Wind River Indian Reservation teachers turn to technology to preserve Shoshone language
By Tetona Dunlap
February 28, 2012

The Shoshone people, like most indigenous cultures, traditionally passed on their language orally. Though Shoshone-speaking Native American tribes inhabit several western states, the number of fluent speakers has dwindled consistently over the past decades. Some experts estimate there may be less than a few hundred fluent speakers of the language alive today. A survey of fluency was conducted last year of Eastern Shoshone tribal members ages 50 to 100 years old. Out of a total of 844 people who fit these age categories, only 103 identified themselves as fluent and 106 were proficient or had limited understanding of the language. Every year these elders pass away, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about the language.

In an effort to combat these decreasing numbers and preserve the Shoshone language, Eastern Shoshone tribal members on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming are combining technology with tradition to help save the language.

Schools on the Wind River Indian Reservation have attempted to respond to the community desire to hear the language once again flowing from the mouths of their children. However, for a language that was never written, and as the number of fluent speakers dwindle, educators are in a race against time to create tools that teach and document the vast vocabulary for the next generation.

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