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UWT to offer Lushootseed immersion program this summer

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The first ever Lushootseed immersion program on Lushootseed ancestral land will be taking place this summer at University of Washington-Tacoma. Assistant Professor Danica Miller, a member of the Puyallup Tribe, is taking registrations now for the Lushootseed Language Institute taking place Aug. 1 through 12.

Made possible through collaboration with the Puyallup Tribe’s Language Revitalization Program, this will be a total immersion into the language for 40 hours each week for two weeks with the goal of revitalizing the language to bring it into the modern era, which differs from teaching the language in ways the ancestors used it, as Danica Miller explained.

“A typical sentence would have been something like, ‘In the morning we go hunt deer’ but we want to teach people how to say, ‘I need to get a coffee’ – how we would use it today. We don’t want it to be a text language, we want it to be a talking language,” she said.

To that end, the theme of the class will be teaching teachers Lushootseed. “By teachers we do mean in some sense formal teachers but we also mean traditional indigenous teachers so I think of it as the role of the auntie – people who traditionally carry knowledge and have a cultural responsibility to carry it on. The point of it is to pass it on, not just carry it.”

Instruction topics will include local tribal history and geography, linguistics, conversation, reclaiming domains and learning traditional Puyallup songs in Lushootseed so that students will attain the tools to teach these songs to whomever they want, be it family, friends, other students of the language or all three. The course will be taught at the beginning level but those with Lushootseed knowledge at any level are welcome. The second week will focus on writing and producing short videos in Lushootseed.

Priority registration will be given to Puyallup tribal members but you don’t have to be a member of the Puyallup Tribe to take part. How students will take the language out into the community afterward and keep it going is what’s most important.

“This isn’t just an academic exercise,” Danica said. “It’s a community activity. It isn’t about how Puyallup are you – it’s about how we figure our relationship to our community and I think that’s magical.”

Danica Miller and the other instructors made a conscious effort to create the Lushootseed Language Institute as accessible as possible for the community. The registration fee is $25 and tuition is $250, which is a good $2,000 less than our area’s only other source to study Lushootseed – the Northwest Indian Language Institute at the University of Oregon. Costs for UWT’s program were kept low thanks to the Puyallup Tribal Council’s generous grant to UWT last year that launched a pathbreaking collaboration to infuse Native ways of knowing into UW Tacoma teaching, learning and research. The grant has amplified the teaching, research and service of a growing cluster of Native American faculty and staff at UW Tacoma. Last year the university hired Danica Miller (Puyallup) and Michelle Montgomery (Eastern Band Cherokee; Haliwa Saponi) as assistant professors of Native American studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences; and Michael Tulee (Yakama) as Native American educator in the Office of Equity & Diversity.

“I can’t tell you how much fun it has been putting this together,” Danica Miller said. “It’s been a lot of work but a lot of fun too.” Plans are to offer the Lushootseed Language Institute every summer, and by the third year expectations are to divide it into a beginner and intermediate program.

To learn more about the institute and to apply, visit www.campusce.net/uwtacoma/course/course.aspx?catId=90.

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