12 Days of Native Language

12 Days of Native Language, by Native Friends

For those that aspire to learn and teach an Indigenous language, here is a list for you.

How do we use school and work breaks to support our language goals?  

So, a couple of little language helpers stopped by and we got to talking about how to incorporate language during this holiday. The kids have school breaks, some jobs have days off. The merriment flows through people. So, while there are important things like snowball fights, hot cocoa, and Star Wars to watch, let’s not forget to build our Native language.

Here is the list:

1.   Say Merry Christmas in Native language
2.   Say December in Native language
3.   Prepare for words you might hear
4.   Acknowledge language leaders
5.   Respond in Native language
6.   Listen to Native songs
7.   Listen to Native Night before Christmas
8.   Attend social dances or powwows
9.   Translate movie quotes
10. Decorate with language
11. Make a collage or scrapbook
12. Visit and speak in a Native language

Keep on going to read more and see examples. 

1. Say Merry Christmas in a Native language

  • ICHISKIIN: Mali K'lismás or  
      • Mali Klismas (without the accent marks)
Here are some other languages courtesy of Native Village
  • CHOCTAWYukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
  • CREEMitho Makosi Kesikansi
  • GWICH'INDrin tsal zhit shoh ohlii & Drin Choo zhit zhoh ohli
  • HAWAIIANMele Kalikimaka & Hauoli Makahiki Hou
  • LAKOTA: Wanikiya Tonpi Wowiyuskin & Omaka Teca Oiyokipi 
  •  METIS/MICHIF: Gayayr Nwel 

2. Say December in a Native language

Translate December. In Ichiskiin, this translates to 10 and 2 month.

  • ICHISKIIN: Pútɨmt ku Niipt Alx̱ayx̱  
      • Putumt ku Niipt Alxayx (without the accent marks)
      • Pa-tu-mt koo Nee-pt Al-x-eye-x

3. Prepare for words you might hear

Although I won’t write much of it, there is a ceremony we have in winter. The word a lot is Tamasklikt it connects with the winter solstice. This information is already published, in a few places, including the Yakama Dictionary, hear the sound file by Virginia Beavert. Practice words you might hear. Pay attention to how different people pronounce or use variations in sentence form. You can try to count how many times you hear it used. This is like a word scavenger hunt.

4. Acknowledge the language leaders

  • Elder or language teacher - You will ask them a lot of questions. A quick call or text here and there. Once people know you are learning and trying others will message you “how do you say...” You will be confused and you will be excited. Make sure to acknowledge people that help you with language. Some of my language teachers have passed away. It can be emotional. If that’s the case with you, then you know it is now your responsibility to teach. Carry their teachings on. That is your gift to them.  
  • Youth - When it comes to language, kids talk to kids. My kids talk to each other in Ichiskiin more than me. Acknowledge the kids using the language.  Try different places, some do better with individual recognition, while others get embarrassed in a group setting. Show gratitude towards their language efforts helps reinforce what they know. Example: “Wow, you said Auna!"
  • Learners or teachers - If you are the one learning or teaching native language take time to acknowledge that. Make a social commitment and tell people. Example: "I am going to learn or teach more of our Native language." You will see how others will follow your lead or support you.

    5. Respond in Native language

      Example: If they say: Bears eat a lot of fish. You can respond with:

      • Option A: EE - bears eat a lot of nusux (Yes, bears eat a lot of fish)
      • Option B: EE - anahuay tkwatat nusux (Yes, bears eat fish)

        This approach works to add-on to what people say rather than just correct someone's speaking.

        6. Listen to Native language songs

        Warscout is our go-to Christmas party mix and this song is our favorite. Watch it here on Youtube: 12 Indian Days of Christmas. We listen to other songs, but this is our favorite.

        Another option is to translate some popular song phrases. Right now, I'm working on translating Eminem - Walk On Water (Audio) ft. Beyoncé. For 3  reasons: 1) I like Eminem. 2)  It's on the radio a lot, so it's a prompt to translate and even learn more myself 3) Some parts have a slower pace which makes it easier to translate. 

        Do you have a favorite song with a Native language you listen to this time of the year?

          7. Listen to Native Night before Christmas   

          This came highly recommended by a few people in my inbox, so, I’m sharing by popular demand. Watch it this story and wonderful illustrations  on Youtube: A Native American Night Before Christmas 

          8. Attend social dances or powwows

          Several of our longhouses, shaker churches, and others places host Christmas gatherings. Many times this includes social dancing. Sometimes, performances or practices of social dances take place. If there are not any nearby, maybe it can just be in a living room. We practiced with our girls and when they did see a swan dancers, they just put them in the line. Which means, they joined in. The earlier kitchen/living room practice helped them. Yesterday, they performed at a different school. They were initially sad, because they were going to miss their class party, but we talked about the importance of sharing a little of our culture. They had a nail painting party with their kuthla, so it worked out. We need to hear and see the language used in different settings. 

          9. Translate movie quotes 

          Here is one, Ee aw cushu (That will do pig) - Babe. Ask elders or relatives to translate just a quote. It can be very fun and lighten the mood. If you can only translate one word out of an entire quote that’s okay too.

          10. Decorate with language

          You can write a word on an ornament, a frame, or a card. Even include language on your photo cards. If you get late with this you can also send or make New Year’s cards. Yes, that’s a thing and a procrastinator's dream. People love pictures of your kids and you. I still need to take a family photo, but we will get to it soon.

          11. Make a collage or scrapbook with the language

          People review the year in December and get ready to goal-set for the next year. Scrapbooking helps this. Sometimes, you can make a photo collage on your phone and just add a word. Make sure to post it and share with others. Awhile ago, my husband drew this photo of Yoda. I combined it with a phrase and these little strawberry hats I made with our kids.

          A Mali Klismas I wish you. Yoda speaks Ichiskiin, a Native American language used in the Pacific Northwest, by Native Friends.


          12. Visit and speak in a Native language

           Many tribal communities or tribal members have art markets or bazaars. Some tribal members have stores. Please support these artists and vendors. If you are a tribal member, this is where you find out a fun story about a relative. A lot of stories are shared about the artists themselves. It’s a good place to practice greetings like Shiyax Mytski good morning or Shiyax Pachway good afternoon. You may ask general questions. Keep in mind, some are more willing to share than others. Start with a greeting, then “Can you tell me more about this item?” See how the conversation goes. Some love to share a little of the inspiration for their handmade items of beadwork, jewelry and, other art. Here is a video an example of atway Delores George at a bazaar. While she was a fluent speaker, she distances herself from that label in this video. Perhaps, it was her call to action for others? Although she passed away, she is very dear to our people and had a wonderful way of explaining things. 


          Native Language

          I hope this 12 Days of Native language list helps you.  

          If you don't get to everything, that's okay. If you get to 1, great, if you get all 12 great. With regards to language learning remember to have fun with it and keep it light. If you are the one learning, try to use the words you learn in different ways. If you are teaching, keep the lessons short, to begin with.

          Now, I gotta do something fun with these elves.

          Until next time. 

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          12 Days of Native Language, a list to help the language learners and teachers by Native Friends

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