Comanche Nation Language Department
Which Tribal/Indigenous community is your program/institution affiliated with?
How many staff members work for your program/institution?
How long has your program/institution existed?
Since October 2019.
What is the contact information for your program/institution (e.g. mailing address, website, Facebook Page, etc.)?
1608 SW 9th St
Lawton, OK 73501
PO Box 908
Lawton, OK 73502
Please provide a brief description (approximately 5 sentences) about your program/institution.
Our mission is to revitalize and reclaim the Comanche Language and to help our people speak and think in Comanche in our own unique ways. The Comanche Tribal Council approved the creation of a new language department on the budget in 2018. Dr. Kathryn Pewenofkit Briner was hired in January 29, 2019, as Director of Language Planning and Development, completing coursework for a second doctorate that focuses specifically on the Comanche language and revitalization.
Language workshops are being planned to take place. Comanche language course has launched on the Memrise website and app: https://www.memrise.com/course/1981870/comanche/ and continues to be updated with new levels. For updates and further information about using the Comanche language app, please see our departmental webpage at www.comanchenation.com, our language page at www.talkcomanche.org and our Facebook page for Comanche Nation Language Department (@CNLanguage).
The Comanche Nation Language Department works with the Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee (CLCPC) to certify language teachers. Together, the CLCPC and the CN Language Department will work to revitalize and reclaim the Comanche language.
What are challenges your program/institution has faced?
Losing speakers. Monolinguals often cannot participate (technological barriers, difficulty in communicating due to hearing or seeing or dementia). Another challenge is getting everybody on the same page, cooperating, logistical issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has only complicated issues: we had iPhone requests for two (2) speakers before pandemic, but due to shutdowns were furloughed without phones; FaceTime seems easiest.
What are existing projects your program/institution is working on?
We are developing a multi-tiered curriculum and hope to use it for everybody, mainly intended for immersion learning (via the Sac & Fox Model), with specific domains distributed to HS and community teachers that can be made into weekly- or monthly-lessons. We are updating our dictionary, making it public via Webonary and also on Miromaa. We have started a storytime series with stories such as Brown Brown Bear and Five Little Monkeys. The developing curriculum will also be used for a charter school, which we are hoping to open in August for pre-K through 1st grade. We have a really heavy social media presence with every day phrases, stories, sharing excerpts of an older public television show 'Wordcast', and since April 15th 2020 have been having four (4) classes a week on Zoom, two (2) beginner classes (kids and family, 1h) and one (1) advanced class (adult, 1.5h) with a speaker in Albuquerque (95 in January, her daughter has helped facilitate, and director facilitate). In fact, COVID-19 accelerated our plans from developing curriculum to launching classes and trialing curriculum as it is developed.
What are the short-term goals for your program institution (present-day – one month from now)?
Finalize curriculum and prepare expansion of Zoom class (more sessions per week).
What are the long-term goals for your program/institution (1 year – 5 years from now)?
Our dictionary is a five year project, but also expand entries with audio and video (digitization project for central online language archive) and collect more monolingual entries while still have speakers. Possibly a Master-Apprentice program in the future.
From your perspective, how do you view the language activity in your tribe?
The loss of monolingual speakers is difficult, last count by the museum in 2018 was eleven (11). At their ages, it is challenging to participate (technological barriers, difficulty in communicating due to hearing or seeing or dementia).
However, there are six (6) certified 2L speakers, with two (2) having conversational proficiencies (CP). Two other speakers also teach in public schools have improved substantially in Zoom classes towards CP. Everything we do is increasing interest. No attrition in Zoom classes is the most surprising thing.
Our rule for those interested in the online classes is only joining at the beginning of a new unit to prevent backtracking. Space is limited and valuable (with a waiting list to join pilot program), but this only seems to be driving interest. Community excited to see development, never before coordinated effort. Students in classes share experiences via word of mouth about it being fun and learning a lot. Class maximum is capped at twenty (20) so that all students have a chance to practice.
Our success has inspired even Kiowa teacher-apprentices to ask to observe classes online, as well as Muskoke asking to speak on Zoom.