LBHC event blends family, learning and language

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Language learning fun

Courtesy photo

A pre-schooler from Chickadee Lodge in Crow Agency participated in a basketball drill Tuesday evening at Little Big Horn College during family fun night. All the games played during the immersion school’s event were played using the Crow language.

Chickadee Lodge Crow Language Immersion School hosted Family Fun Night at the Little Big Horn College Student Union Building on Tuesday night.

The games, which were designed to be played entirely in Biiluuke – the Apsáalooke Language – have been gaining popularity among parents and students alike.

One participant, LBHC student Brinna Melendrez, a former Miss Crow Nation who now has a little chickadee of her own, spoke to Big Horn County News about the importance of immersive language events like these.

“I am very proud that we put this event together to help the children learn the Crow language and for them to be able to express it in different ways,” Melendrez said.

Melendrez said maintaining Apsáalooke identity is a crucial aspect that she hopes to impart to her children by sending them to the Crow language immersion school.

“As a parent, I hope my children grow with their Crow language,” Melendrez said. “It takes a village to raise a child and hope they learn to accept what others have to say and teach.”

Biiluuke is in danger of being lost, with most fluent speakers over 50 years old now.

“It is important because we are slowly losing our language and having little family fun nights like these make a child want to strive to learn more of the Crow language and the culture,” Melendrez said.

As recently as the mid-1980s, most children on the reservation’s first language was Crow, but that is not the case anymore. The determined staff at the Chickadee Lodge and the Crow Language Consortium are working hard to combat that statistic.

The Chickadee Lodge, under the direction of Dr. Janine Pease, is the Crow Nation’s only language immersion program and has been having much success with the pre-school through first grade students who are retaining much of what they are learning in school.

Melendrez, who is also a student at Little Big Horn College and had to design a booth for the family fun night as part of her final project for a class, said her and her children are anxiously awaiting the next event.

“I look forward to seeing my children participate in cultural events (like these),” Melendrez said that her strategy was to embrace a very important game to many Indigenous communities so that the young participants would have a tangible retention of the words they were learning.

“I know a lot of children love the game of basketball and could also learn it in the Crow Language, so I decided to put both together,” she said.

Her booth, which was quite a hit with all those present, brought many of the young participants and their parents back to the booth a second time.

“It was very fun seeing all the children with smiles as they would pick up the basketball and say the word “ball” in the Crow language,” Melendrez said.

See a photo of one participant playing Melendrez’s game on page 3.