Crow Summer Institute part of effort to promote Apsáalooke language fluency

Thursday, June 6, 2019
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Photo by Rusty LaFrance

Linguist and author, Father Randolph Graczyk teaches educators elements of the Apsáalooke language Tuesday during the Crow Summer Institute.

With the number of fluent Crow language speakers diminishing with the passing of each tribal elder, the revitalization and restoration of the Apsáalooke language is the primary goal for the 2019 Crow Summer Institute.

“The Crow language, which is in high danger of total extinction, is not being properly continued from one generation to the next in what is referred to as ‘inter-generational language transmission,’” said Will Meya, director of the Language Conservancy and board member of the Crow Language Consortium Tuesday at the afternoon Apsáalooke language session.

He said the Crow Summer Institute is in its seventh year of language revitalization efforts to raise and foster new and innovative ways to achieve fluency bringing together both the learners and teachers of Biiluuke, the Apsáalooke language, during the summer sessions, which started on June 3 and run until June 21 at Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency.

Meya said people are still welcome to register and attend the institute at Little Big Horn College and advance their knowledge of the Crow culture and language.

The institute gives the participants the chance to contribute to the efforts set forth by the Language Conservancy, a non-profit organization that works and assists tribes in the US, Canada, and Indigenous People Australia.

They established their presence in 2012 at Little Big Horn College and in 2015 helped establish the Crow Language Consortium, both organizations have been diligently working together ever since to develop textbooks, classroom posters, a mobile phone app, an updated Crow dictionary and Grades K-2 immersion school curriculum, said Meya.

Intergenerational Language Transmission or the passing down of the indigenous language from parent to child, has reached an alltime low, said Meya.

The number of fluent Biiluuke speakers hit a dramatic decline in the mid-1970’s and English became the primarily spoken language at home, said Meya.

Ever since then, Meya said, the number of fluent speaker has steadily declined more and more & generations after that have not been replaced by new fluent speakers of Biiluuke.

According to the data gathered by The Language Conservancy, Biiluuke is one of the top 10 Indigenous languages in the US that can potentially reach 100 percent fluency again.

The Apsáalooke have a window of opportunity with the efforts of the Language Conservancy and the Crow Language Consortium combined. Many other Indigenous languages started to lose fluency in the 1950’s with Indian Assimilation policies still being viciously enforced, whereas the Crow language perpetuated for another 25 years, Meya said.