Ho-Chunk Nation works to conserve language

JD Danielson | WEAU13 | July 18, 2023

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) – In partnership with The Language Conservancy, the Ho-Chunk Nation is in the process of revitalizing and conserving its language for future generations.

It is the second phase of the language preservation process, following the construction of a large-scale dictionary, now younger generations are being called upon for the conversational phrases.

“We wanted to kind of use our younger students to be the voice of the e-learning app, and hopefully that kind of will even encourage younger users to use the app,” said Education Coordinator of the Ho-Chunk Language division Jessi Falcon.

With these younger voices, Ho-Chunk Nation officials have partnered with eminent speakers, who bring a lifetime of experience to teaching the younger members.

“There is people that, like myself, that has to do something to preserve our language, so these young people want to learn, speak that,” said eminent speaker Wilbert Cleveland. “They’re the ones that are going to be our future, so for them to continue your language, you know, I would encourage that.”

Cleveland states that language is vital to the preservation of the tribe itself.

“I never thought that our language or language would start fading away,” Cleveland said. “Some people say that, you know, if our language dies, you know, so does the tribe.”

The passion for preservation resonates with the students contributing to the e-learning app.

“Obviously, everyone wants to keep the language going and everything,” said student contributor Randi Greendeer. “Another big reason why I want to be a part of this, because I can learn more Ho-Chunk as I go on, and I can help other people so they can learn, and Ho-Chunk just doesn’t die.”

Once the app is completed, Ho-Chunk officials hope to expand the educational program beyond schools such as Black River Falls and Nekoosah.

“We’re only in the five school districts, you know, but we would like to have an online class, and this e-learning app can definitely contribute to that,” Falcon said.

Though only a day into the recording sessions, spirits are high throughout the Ho-Chunk Nation.

“To hear these children sit at the table and talk Ho-Chunk to one another, that was music to my ears,” Cleveland said.

The recordings are expected to last from July 18th to July 21st.

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