Page 2: LCC governs tribe language preservation, education on reservation

In 1996 the tribal legislature passed ordinance 96-22, the Menominee Language and Culture Code. The ordinance makes the Menominee Language the official language of the tribe and states that the language should be taught in all the schools on the reservation and should be used in tribal business whenever possible. This ordinance also created the Language and Culture Commission (LCC), “comprised of nine Menominee persons, five of whom are eminent persons or Kaeqc-Kehkenamok acknowledged to be fluent in Menominee language and that are deeply knowledgeable of, and are practitioners of Menominee culture, traditions, values, and ceremonies.” The LCC oversees all language activities on the reservation, including licensing teachers of the Menominee language, recommending teaching materials for the schools, approving language and/or cultural research projects, and developing community based language and cultural activities.

To fill the need for Menominee teachers created by the ordinance, a Mentor-Apprenticeship program was funded by an Administration for Native Americans (ANA) grant to train adult speakers of the language. The Mentor-Apprenticeship program is an immersion program that pairs each learner with a fluent elder. Since 1998 seven new teachers have been certified, with three currently in training, thanks to a Mentor-Apprentice immersion program funded by the Administration for Native Americans.

As a result, the language is now taught on the reservation at Head Start, the public schools (K-12), the tribal school (K-8), Native American Educational Services (NAES) College, and the College of the Menominee Nation. Language classes are also offered free to the community through the LCC. The elementary and secondary schools also promote the language in other ways. Native American art is displayed in the hallways, and Menominee vocabulary is posted throughout the schools. And a video screen in the lunchroom provide images, an English word (fork, glass, milk, plate, meat, potatoes), then its Menominee equivalent in big letters.

Teaching the language in the schools is an important step toward revitalizing the language. However it must be spoken outside the classroom as well. Thus, the tribe holds language and cultural programs outside the schools. The LCC periodically sponsors an immersion breakfast or dinner where the elders and interested adult and student learners can meet and speak Menominee. Traditionally, legends can only be told when the ground is frozen. So, in the months of January and February, the LCC holds weekly Roundhouses where there is traditional storytelling, drumming, and dancing. Family classes, where parents and children are invited to learn the language together, have been offered. Elders also meet with teachers once a week throughout the year to answer questions and help them develop materials. Additionally, students from both the tribal and public schools participate in a week long summer language and culture camp where elders come to tell stories at night and the students participate in cultural activities, like making birch bark baskets, during the day.

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Last updated: February 25, 2004