Program about dying Indian languages recognized

Norman, Oklahoma (AP) 1-09

The state Education Department is honoring a group of Norman High School students for their documentary about dying languages of American Indian tribes.

The program “When It’s Gone, It’s Gone” by 13 students in the school’s Native America Club is also now being used in classrooms as a teaching tool.

The students interviewed tribal elders from American Indian tribes in Oklahoma about their native languages and the effort to keep their languages and cultures alive.

Most of the elders in the video are in their 80s and have witnessed their native tongues dying out as younger generations are raised to speak English.


Oklahoma has 39 federally recognized tribes, and many are losing their languages with few fluent speakers left, said Desa Dawson, director of world languages for the state Education Department.

Mosiah Bluecloud, a former Norman High School student, said working on the documentary changed his life.

“I felt sad as I listened to them talk about their children,” he said. “It kind of made me feel helpless.”

Bluecloud, a Kickapoo, decided to change his major at the University of Oklahoma to linguistics, and he wants to become fluent in his native language.

Dawson said she’s received comments from high school and college language teachers across the state who’ve shown the video in their classes and used it to start discussions about the cultural importance of language.

The video has struck a chord with people, and they get emotional about it, Dawson said.

“You express your culture through your language, and without that language, it makes it that much more difficult to maintain your culture,” Dawson said.