Page 3: Linguists help preserve language

Dr. Monica Macaulay, a linguist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Marianne Milligan, a graduate student in linguistics, have been working with the elders for about five years. As part of their agreement with the tribe, they may do linguistic research in return for assistance with the tribe’s language programs. They provide copies of tape recordings to a number of tribal institutions, and have created materials for use by the teachers, such as tapes of stories with accompanying text, tapes of vocabulary items, and grammatical lessons. Recently, they have embarked on a Menominee-English dictionary project, funded by the National Science Foundation. This is an urgent need for the tribe, since there is no adequate Menominee-English/English-Menominee dictionary available for use by language teachers and learners.

Christine Lemley, a graduate student in Curriculum and Instruction from UW, has been working with the Menominee language teachers in the tribal and public schools. She co-facilitated a language workshop with the district curriculum director for the public elementary and secondary Menominee language teachers to provide an opportunity for professional growth. She has distributed curricula from another Algonquian tribe to all of the teachers and provided this curriculum to the tribal school principal who is reworking the present curriculum. She has interviewed elders and teachers about their experiences in school and on the reservation to identify what is important to each educator in teaching Menominee culture and language. Her goal is that this information will inform future language training programs.

Languages promote diversity, express identity, function as repositories of history, and contribute to the sum of human knowledge. Most Native American languages are endangered and will be lost by the end of the twenty-first century. The languages of Wisconsin are no exception. However, the tribes, as evidenced by the Menominee, are making huge strides toward making sure their language, their heritage, and their culture is maintained and preserved for future generations.

Christine Lemley is a graduate student in Curriculum and Instruction and Marianne Milligan is a graduate student in Linguistics. Both attend UW-Madison.

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Last updated: February 25, 2004