Native Village 
Youth and Education News
May, 2013
Native American Youth Language Fair has record attendance

Condensed by Native Village
Oklahoma: Recently, the 11th annual Native American Youth Language Fair took place at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman.  An all-time high of 921 registered students attended. There were 446 live performances or submissions -- posters, books, comic book, poetry and essays -- all using native language.

Students participated by age and category:
Individual, small group, or large group Spoken Language Performance
Individual, small group, or large group Song in Native Language
Language Masters Performance
Poetry Writing and Performance
Spoken Language with PowerPoint
Poster Art on the yearly language theme
Book & Literature
Cartoon & Comic Book (NEW for 2013!)
Film & Video
Language Advocacy Essay (in English)

Over 20 languages were represented:
Apache, Arapaho, Cayuga, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Coushatta, Dakota, Euchee (Yuchi), Hasinai (Caddo), Hochunk, Jiwere (Otoe), Kanza (Kaw), Keres, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Mohawk, Mvskoke (Creek), Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Pima, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Sauk, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Shoshone, Ute, Wichita, and Zuni.

Dr. Mary Linn is assistant curator of Native Languages at the Sam Noble Museum. She has also been a driving force behind the Native Youth Language Fair and remembers the early years. 

 ďI never dreamed, well I dreamed, I really wanted... I could envision a day when there was so many kids and that they were really using their languages in so many new and creative ways. Thatís what I wanted.
"But at first it was hard to envision that there would be that kind of enthusiasm with the younger kids because it did take a while for people, for younger kids to really feel comfortable I think. So when I first started working in Oklahoma in the early 1990's, the language teachersÖ that was they're biggest concern, that the children did not want to learn the language. They felt that there wasn't the interest with the youth.
" I don't think thatís the problem at all, itís like this big snowball rolling down the hill and itís so big now I don't think it can be stopped. And itís because of the children, itís because of the youth. If they want to learn the language they are going to learn it, they're going to find ways to learn it. So I'm really...enthused. And as I said I could dream about it but I think that itís surpassed my dreams.Ē

Some Native languages are now available on mobile device. Dr. Linn says itís a good thing.
ďThe more places they can use the language during the day the better. So if they want to communicate by texting and they can communicate by texting in their language, thatís great. It opens up a new place for them to use and practice their language."
In keeping up with the latest trends, the 2014 Native American Youth Language Fair fair will include a new category: skateboards.
ďNext year for the 2014 Fair we're going to have the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It has a traveling exhibit of American Indian skateboard art and skateboarders, and itís going to coincide with the Fair. ... We're going to have a special Native art category for skateboard art with language in it."
Some Natives felt that native language topic about skateboards might push the bounds of good taste.  Dr. Linn feels otherwise.
ďA couple of years ago there was more resistance by some elders to use language in tag art or in those kinds of new ways but I think that's really going away," she said.  "Elders really see that the enthusiasm for use of the language is infectious and it really can't and shouldn't be stopped. And that if children want to use the language in whatever way that's respectful and tag art, of course, and skateboard art, can be very respectful as well. Then we should let them do it.Ē


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