Immersion is the best program for preservation of Arapaho language

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In the ongoing strategy meetings to keep the Arapaho language alive by the
Northern Arapaho Council of Elders and Wind River Tribal College, it was
decided that immersion was the best avenue to pursue in the local
communities.

"Immersion is a good and best start for learning the language. But alone,
it is not enough to promote and preserve the Arapaho language," said
meeting participants. Language needs to be promoted in the homes with the
last remaining speakers. Sometimes this is not possible due to loss of two
fluent speaking generations.

Eugene Ridgley Jr., director of the Bilingual Program at Wind River Tribal
College, said, "The parents of today [18 to 55 years of age] are the
children and grandchildren of the fluent speaking elders." These are the
two generations that is impacted by the loss of our language.

Another good intervention point is the education system. "One of the
strongest allies we have in keeping our language going is the schools,"
said Ridgley. The schools reach a range of students from the age of
kindergarten to college students and those adults who return to complete or
attain their education.

Administrators from the various school districts agreed to arrange meetings
with their school boards to develop a process through the schools for
preservation of the Arapaho language.

Some teachers consider the No Child Left Behind Act a hindrance in devoting
classroom time and curriculum to the Arapaho language. Standards of this
act are stringent, but school administrators made assurances that language
revitalization accommodations could be made.

A good blend of the education system and fluent speaking elders is the
Northern Arapaho Tribe's Immersion School Program. This is an excellent
program but it is not reaching its potential due to limited funding, lack
of concerned parent involvement, and low number of children attending.

Alvena Oldman, program coordinator said, "Those children that are enrolled
in and stay with the program until they reach kindergarten age, are the
most successful in learning the Arapaho language.

"Some parents pull their children out to attend Head Start. This is a
drawback to their ability to continue learning and retaining their
language. They need to keep the kids in our program. Those children who
stay in our program until completion are the ones who are more successful
in learning the Arapaho language." The Immersion Program covers children
from the age of 3 to 5.

Mary Duran, who supports and can relate to the success of the Arapaho
Immersion Program, told the story of her grandson, who was a program
participant. She said, "My grandson was tested for Head Start and he failed
the test. They said he was below the testing standards. But he answered in
Arapaho because that was the language he learned and knew."

Duran insisted that he be retested and that someone who spoke and knew the
Arapaho language be present. With the interpreter present the child was
retested and scored higher than the other children who did not know their
language.

Encouragement is given for everyone who can speak the Arapaho language to
speak it in everyday circumstances. When you greet someone in passing speak
Arapaho, when you see your grandchildren speak only Arapaho to them. Speak
Arapaho in the home, work, recreational or ceremonial activities.

Further encouragement was given to those who may feel that they will not
pronounce or say the words correctly. Alonzo Moss, Arapaho Language and
Culture Commissioner said, "Do not. give up - keep talking the language and
you will eventually learn it."