The Indian Country Today
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Saving A Language

Throughout the Indian country, missionaries, government administrators, and school teachers participated in coordinated efforts to replace indigenous languages with English, stressing that Native Americans would not make any progress until ancient languages were abandoned. On the Blackfeet Reservation, many residents resisted these efforts, but there was no organized opposition to the “English only” policy.

In 1995, the Nizipuhwahsin (“Real Speak”) Center opened its doors. The Center was founded by men and women who believed that the Blackfeet language is more than a means of communication. “The language made us healthy and allowed us to survive for thousands of years,” the school’s director Darrell Kipp has declared. “It is not something to be overcome; it is an integral part of who we are.” Blackfeet, he adds, “is part of our humanity.”

Today Nizipuhwahsin offers children from kindergarten to grade eight a complete curriculum in Blackfeet. Its goal is not only to produce educated children, but to support the cultural health of an entire community.