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Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon

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A measure allows tribal elders to teach their Native languages in schools using a special American Indian language teaching license won't require years of training or a college degree. It simply allows tribal elders to pass on the ancient languages of their people by teaching in public schools with the same rights as other teachers. "It's opening doors for me. I can be free in the public schools to teach my language without someone looking over my shoulder to make sure I'm doing it right,'' Arlita Suppah, a tribal member said on passage earlier this year. Suppah teaches one of three Warm Springs languages, Ichishkiin, to the tribe's children in public schools. "They're learning fast,'' she said. The tribes are also working on creating an alphabet to transcribe their oral languages into written form before the languages die out with aging tribal elders, who are often the only ones capable of passing down the language. "This will tell them that the teachers of our language are just as important as regular teachers,'' said Myra Shawaway, director of the tribal Culture and Heritage Department. "The self-identity issue is one we've always struggled with because it was taken away. Now we can go back to who we are.''