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Native American Students Helping Preserve Language

A Native American language fair in Oklahoma gets Native American students excited about preserving their languages.
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Where can you hear 32 Native American languages spoken by more than 600 students in two days? The Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair held at the Sam Noble Museum is where.

More than 70 schools from Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico participated at the event, which was started nine years ago to provide support to tribes struggling to preserve their languages.

Native American languages are being lost because young Natives aren’t being brought up speaking the language and there aren’t many tribal elders who are fluent in the languages left to teach them. This year’s theme, “Elder Voices, Youth Choices,” speaks to how the youth are taking an interest in learning their Native languages. One of the categories invited students to write an essay on the importance of Native languages

“An event like this provides a goal for the students to work toward through the year as they learn their languages,” said Mary Linn, curator of Native American Languages at the museum, said in a press release. “It also encourages students and teachers alike when they come together and get a chance to interact with so many others who are learning their Native languages. They can see how important it is to Native people all across the country and how many people are working together to help prevent languages from being lost.”

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All participants get a T-shirt and a medal, and the top three in each category get a trophy to display at their home school.

For more information on the event visit the Sam Noble Museum website.