Four Directions Family Center
Ages and Stages Questionnaires- 3rd Edition (ASQ-3)
All children at Four Directions Family Center are screened using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire – 3rd Edition. This happens within 30 days and at four and six month intervals as dictated by the assessment. Below is a comparison of scores for children who received language immersion and children who did not.
Early Childhood Urban Immersion Program
Final Evaluation Report
October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014
John Poupart, Evaluation Consultant
West Saint Paul, MN 55118
Wicoie Nandagikendan Early Childhood Urban Immersion Program is a language immersion program for pre-kindergarten students in the Twin Cities area. The program was created in recognition of the importance of language as a primary pathway to build the language skills of children and to share cultural knowledge and teaching among children, parents, families and the American Indian community in the Twin Cities. The program exists in the context of severe economic and social challenges of the urban American Indian community. Numerous standardized education indicators provide a portrait of the current state of American Indian education where Indian students often trail behind race and ethnic groups in academic achievement scores, graduation rates and attendance; but lead in dropouts rates, failure to graduate, truancy, higher referral rates to special education and high rates of suspensions from school; to name a few. Yet these figures serve only as indicators of a greater challenge in our communities — historical trauma — experienced by generations of American Indians through governmental action and policy with a goal of disseminating the American Indian population in their homeland. Language immersion and cultural teachings, such as the efforts at Wicoie Nandikendan, provide a foundation for a healthy and thriving community and must be supported in order to address the broader issues that exist in our communities.
The benefits of immersion approaches to language acquisition, such as the Wicoie Nandikendan program, that connect American Indian people with their indigenous language and culture are becoming clearer. Research and data indicate that immersion experiences result in increasing language skills among children and families. It is also documented that children that are exposed to language and cultural teachings, Indian elders and Native language instructors through Native language immersion experiences experience higher perceptions of self, as well as academic gains including high school completion rates, higher attendance rates, and higher student standardized achievement scores. Additionally, there is evidence that indicates that there are benefits not only for the Native students involved in Native language immersion experiences but also positive outcomes for parents, caregivers and communities. The language immersion experience for Native children creates a foundation for the Indian children and families to rise above a legacy of poverty, poor health, familial abuse, violence and trauma.
Wicoie Nandikendan provides Ojibwe and Dakota language immersion program for pre-kindergarten students. It is believed that this program is one of only a very few programs in Minnesota that offers this immersion learning experience to students. Teachers provide instruction in the language through culturally relevant and experiential approaches for the time that students are in their classrooms. Students in the classroom are registered through their child care program and submit a request for enrollment in immersion classrooms. The teachers, students and visitors to these classrooms limit communication in the English language, instead teaching and learning through the language during the classroom time. Students lessons are all taught in the Ojibwe or Dakota language. The immersion classrooms meet criteria of Native-language immersion as described in the literature.
|Features of Native-language Immersion
· Voluntary – Students and caregivers participate to support language learning
· Additive – building on students first-language abilities as a foundation
· Full day or most-of-the day teaching and learning in the Native language (complemented by additional afterschool or other learning opportunities
· Incorporates Native cultural content and culturally appropriate ways of teaching and learning
· Engage students in learning in topic areas (e.g. math, science, and reading) through the language.
Source: Teaching the Whole Child, Indian Country Today (9/1/14)
This report is an evaluation of Wicoie Nandagikendan Early Childhood Urban Immersion Program for 10/1/13 through 9/30/14. This report provides a summary of the activities and efforts of the Wicoie at two early childhood sights in Minneapolis. The report identifies evaluation questions, indicators and methods and tools for data collection, as well as program outcomes.
Goals, Outcomes and Indicators
The goal of the Wicoie Nandagikendan is to increase language competency of Dakota and Ojibwe children in Minneapolis and to empower parents of these children to support their own and their children’s ongoing education.
Long-term objectives are results that the Wicoie Program seeks over a multiyear period. Wicoie has identified long-term objectives for the program including increasing the number of fluent speakers, improved academic performance of students, and increasing community involvement in supporting the revitalization of the Dakota and Ojibwe languages. Long-term objectives are important but not measurable within a short period of time.
Intermediate and short-term measurable objectives are those changes that are measurable within grant periods or during a period of time designated. The first set objectives identified for Wicoie are focused on the experience of students enrolled in classroom. These objectives include improved language skills by student participants and developmental readiness at the kindergarten level or meeting appropriate developmental milestones for age group. These include use of the language to count, identifying numbers and letters, ability to identify colors in the language, and other concepts and techniques useful in child development and management. Indicators include the following:
· Teachers will indicate improved speaking of classroom participants.
· Teachers will indicate improved vocabulary of classroom participants.
· Teachers will indicate children speaking without prompting and/or student responding to commands in the language.
· Student readiness will be recorded and compared to non-program students in current and previous years including other Native students and non-Native students. Readiness scores will be consistent with or exceed other student comparison groups.
A second set of objectives are related to teachers and staff. The objectives in this area include improved language skills, improved skills to teach the language, and improved ability to use developmental teaching techniques to teach preschool and younger participants. These skills include use of repetitive storytelling techniques, use of total physical response (TPR) techniques, child development and child management techniques. Indicators include the following:
· Teachers will indicate increased knowledge and skills in Dakota and Ojibwe languages.
· Staff will indicate improved skills to teach Ojibwe and Dakota languages.
· Teachers will indicate increased knowledge and skills in developmental teaching approaches and techniques.
· Team members will identify where students need additional developmental readiness and respond with staff identification and training.
Objectives related to community and parent involvement include involvement in classroom activities to increase opportunity for improved skills development in Ojibwe and Dakota Language. Indicators include the following:
· Parents report involvement in language tables and activities that build language knowledge and skills.
· Staff report parent involvement in classroom and volunteer activities that focus on building language skills.
· Staff report community interest and involvement in language activities.
Evaluation Approach and Methodology
The American Indian Policy Center utilizes a reality-based approach in evaluation efforts. A reality-based approach in evaluation incorporates American Indian values and indigenous ways of knowing. The primary goal of a reality-based approach is to accurately represent the reality of American Indians in the evaluation process. It engages American Indian individuals in each phase of the evaluation process (AIPC, 2000). The methods of data collection for this evaluation included talking circles, interviews and a review of existing documents.
This evaluation is an outcomes-based evaluation meaning that it differs from program reporting or other types of evaluation. While a program report might help to describe a program, program activities, or report the number of activities, programs, or participants — an outcomes-based evaluation is primarily concerned with the impact of these programs and efforts on the participants. For example, our concern for this evaluation is not only the number of participants in language classrooms, language tables, parent programs or the number of hours of staff training delivered. Rather, the interest is in the changes that occurred in the students and staff as a result of their involvement in the Wicoie Nandagikendan program and activities. Outcomes-based evaluation is documentation of the changes that occur in the student from participation in language immersion classes or the changes that occur among the staff in language and teaching skills as a result of their involvement in Wicoie Nandagikendan.
The methods used to collect program data including interviews with staff, talking circles, review of existing documents and assessments conducted throughout the course of the academic year. This mixed method approach provides meaningful cultural perspectives to the evaluation and contributes to the understanding of program activities and outcomes and program strengths and areas for needed growth. Using the traditional American Indian approach of talking circles to gather information and to augment other methods of data collection is a particular strength of this project as scientific approaches may fail to reflect the cultural nuances of American Indian communities.
Interviews were conducted with program participants, and staff to help us describe the activities of Wicoie Nandagikendan and gain access to documents and materials to aid in the evaluation of the program. The program proposal, newsletters, teacher documentation, and student progress worksheets were reviewed to assess progress in meeting the established outcomes of the project and to conduct a qualitative assessment of activity, approach, and progress of program participants in meeting the stated objectives.
AIPC met with all staff using a traditional Indian talking circle format to assess the progress of students enrolled in all classes. Staff was asked to provide general comments about the program activities and the approach that was used to document student progress or lack of progress in speaking, understanding, and conversational skills in the language.
- The primary questions for this evaluation period are the following:
- Did the program achieve outcomes/results for student and staff as identified in the proposal (outcomes)?
- Do the participants increase language skills and knowledge?
- Are participants meeting developmental milestones at rates equal to a comparison group?
- Do the language skills and knowledge to teach the language improve for classroom staff?
Are parents and community involvement in language acquisition efforts achieved? (i.e., parent and community involvement)
An analysis of talking circles conducted with staff and parents indicates that language learning is important for children, families and communities. Talking circle results indicate that the parents, staff and community believe that language revitalization, to reconnect to the culture and history of Native people, serves as a necessary basis for building strong and resilient communities. Results indicate that parents/caregivers and community see the language as having effects beyond the classroom including an impact on future generations of children and families.
“… it is vital for the younger generations to be familiar with the culture and the different mindset that comes along with learning the language … and just how things are interpreted differently through the Ojibwe language … just carrying it on.”
“I think it is important to keep the language going with the younger generation … we are losing the language and I think it is really important to keep it going before we completely lose the language.”
Language teaching and learning has an impact on the children in the classrooms that reach beyond the classroom. Participants in talking circles indicate that evidence exist that children that are learning the language also do better in English and test scores in other areas.
“I have noticed my kids since they have been in the program their language, they have progress in it. But also other parts of their learning not just with the language or culture, but learning the colors, the numbers … even in English too … that went up with their scores. So it is really helpful in all aspects of their learning.”
Parents note that language and culture learnings are inseparable and that both take place through children’s involvement in Wicoie. One parent indicates
“… She has also been more culturally aware as far as teachings on how to operate as an Ojibwe person or Native person.”
Appendix A provides a parent reflection of their connection to Wicoie and their experience with the Wicoie.
Outcome: Improved language skills of student participants and developmental readiness at the kindergarten level or meeting appropriate developmental milestones for age group.
Status: Outcomes Partially Met
Student development. The tool used to measure student development indicates that students in the latest period were less likely to achieve an age-appropriate score as compared to a control classroom. Reasons for this outcome are indicated below.
The Ages and Stages questionnaire is a child development screening tool with items linked to developmental milestones. The ASQ-3 helps teach parents about child development and their own child’s skills as well as identifying children with developmental delays. The ASQ-3 was completed for students within 30 days of enrollment in a classroom and at four and six-month intervals for the Ojibwe classroom. This table provides the ASQ-3 scores for students enrolled in the Four Directions Family Center that includes students enrolled in language immersion. Four years of data are provided for an Ojibwe immersion classroom and a comparison classroom as reported by the Family Partnership. For the first three years reported, the percent of students receiving age-appropriate scores was higher for students enrolled in the Four Directions classroom. It is also important to note that the percent of Age Appropriate Scores increased in each subsequent year. In the latest year reported, the Ojibwe classroom is actually lower than that regular classroom which may partly be due to the small number of students enrolled in classroom and the fluctuation of scores as a result.
|Ages and Stages Questionnaires-3rd Edition (ASQ-3)|
|2009-2010||Age appropriate score||%|
|Ojibwe Classroom||6 of 8||75%|
|Regular Classroom||24 of 43||56%|
|Combined – all kids||30 of 51||59%|
|2010-2011||Age appropriate score|
|Ojibwe Classroom||11 of 13||85%|
|Regular Classroom||12 of 16||75%**|
|Combined – all kids||23 of 29||79%|
|2011-2012||Age appropriate score|
|Ojibwe Classroom||20 of 22||91%|
|Regular Classroom||25 of 30||83%|
|Combined – all kids||45 of 52||87%|
|2012-2013||Age appropriate score|
|Ojibwe Classroom||13 of 16||81%|
|Regular Classroom||31 of 35||89%|
|Combined – all kids||44 of 51||86%|
Student Language Development. Evidence exists that this outcome has been met.
In another assessment conducted by the language teachers, student language skills are documented by asking students to identify numbers, count, name colors, follow simple commands, identify pictures and demonstrate comprehension of concepts using a set of IGDI cards. In the Ojibwe classroom, 9 students began the school year in the fall with a total number of students at 13. The results of this assessment include those students enrolled during each assessment period. The age range for students in the Ojibwe Classroom was two-years to six-years old (On October 14, 2014) and only students older than three were assessed using this process. The enrollment for students in the Dakota classrooms included students from one-year to three years old; six students were enrolled in the Dakota classroom throughout the school year.
This table provides the results of the language assessments that are completed in the fall, winter and spring of each year. The assessment is conducted in Ojibwe and is designed to assess individual student progress in key areas. The table provides the classroom results for each area of assessment. Results illustrate increasing skills of students in each area.
|Student Language Assessment Average Scores – Ojibwe Classroom
|Identifies numbers 1-10||2.8||3.4||5.6|
|Counts in numbers 1-10||4.8||10.1||10.2|
|Identifies Colors 0-8||1.1||4.3||5|
|Follows Commands 0-17 (e.g. Wash your hands)||5.0||9||8.3|
|IGDI Production (# Cards Named in 3 minutes)||<1||5.5||3.9|
|IGDI Comprehension (# Cards in 3 minutes)||7.3||10.5||12.6|
|Student Language Assessment Average Scores – Dakota Classroom
|Identifies numbers 1-10||—||—||8.5|
|Counts in numbers 1-10||—||—||8.5|
|Identifies Colors 0-8||—||—||1.0|
|Follows Commands 0-17 (e.g. Wash your hands)||—||—||8.5|
|IGDI Production (# Cards Named in 3 minutes)||—||—||22.0|
|IGDI Comprehension (# Cards in 3 minutes)||—||—|
Toddlers in Wicoie Nandikendan are unable to be assessed for communication skills and instead are assessed using an adapted ASQ-3 model developed by staff (children under 3 years old are observed using this model). In the fall, two students in the Ojibwe classroom and four students in the Dakota classroom were assessed using the adapted model. In the Ojibwe classroom, three students were eligible to be assessed, one refused to participate; in the Winter, three students were eligible to be assessed and three students participated; and in the Spring the one student that was eligible was tested using this model. Over the course of the year, all of the student observations in the Ojibwe classroom indicated that the students were performing 50 percent of the time or greater. The four assessments in the Dakota classroom also indicated that students were performing at this level. In only a few instances, student assessments indicated that students were performing to a lesser degree.
Qualitative Language Skills Assessment. Evidence also exists that the language skills of participants increase as a result of their enrollment in the language classrooms. Day-to-day interaction with students in the classroom provides opportunities for teachers to observe first-hand language acquisition and progress of students. Teachers complete quarterly reports that illustrate student progress in speaking and understanding language. Individual notations in quarterly reports illustrate a progression of student skills development. For example, early on students begin to repeat sounds of letters, learn words and names for objects, count and respond to commands in the language. Later they demonstrate ability to enunciate words at will, repeat sentences and phrases, respond in sentences and phrases, and sing songs.
There is also evidence in program newsletters that demonstrate language skill development where students read books, count to”50”, verbalize requests to teachers and other classroom visitors, speak and respond to peers, play, — a developing command of languages to varying degrees when children use the language to express themselves, identify their needs and communicate with peers and others. Examples include the following:
“When I asked __ a question in Ojibwe, __ said “Gaawiin Bizindaanziin” (referring to a peer — she isn’t listening).”
When they were playing a game, __ said “ Ingiizhitaa.” (I am finished)!”
“When a student was playing with teacher and making the sound for “B”, __ touched the work Wall and said “B…B… Bakwezhigan (bread)”
“__ likes to say “Miskwaate, Ozaawaate, Ozhaawashkwaate” (Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light) when he heads to the gym.”
“__ asked for “asumpi” (milk in Dakota)”
“__ said pida miya (Thank You in Dakota)”
“__ sings the pray song in Dakota”
“__ said hiya he wacin sni in Dakota (No, I don’t want that) and she also loves singing the mato sapa song – she can sing it by herself.”
“__ enjoys circle time, she sits quietly and sings along with the Dakota teachers and enjoys story time.”
“__ says Asumpi wacin (I want milk), she also likes singing Dakota nursery rhymes.”
There are numerous examples through available documents that students develop their language skills throughout their experience in language classrooms. While some of this progress is captured through this evaluation process, this development is more aptly documented through observation of students in the classroom.
Challenges in immersion teaching/learning. As Wicoie Nandikendan has been in existence for a number of years, the staff have developed a set of lesson plans, translated a number of books and created a number of activities that are consistently used in both the Ojibwe and Dakota classrooms. In interviews with staff, there are a number of challenges in immersion teaching/learning. Student retention due to consistent funding for child care, social and economic challenges of families, the range in ages/ development of students enrolled in classrooms, the transitory nature of the population were some areas concerns. Participants provided specific examples of barriers that exist to participation.
“Wicoie is working on some scholarships, because we had a lot of Dakota families that were interested in putting the kids in the immersion language but they were unable to afford it.”
“I was listening to MPR and they said that it is not uncommon where most early childhood care is about $1,000 a month.
In addition to the cost of childcare, the participants in the talking circles noted that access to childcare and the system that licenses childcare programs (e.g. 407 point check off lists exist for programs) have created barriers to families in finding affordable care for children and gaining access to language learning opportunities that Wicoie could provide for Native children and families in the urban Twin Cities area.
Outcome: Professional development of teachers leading to increased language skills and ability to teach and assess development of student participants.
Status: Outcomes met.
The goal of developing more language immersion teachers includes teacher skill enhancement with a focus on improved skills in the teaching staff in the Dakota and Ojibwe classrooms. This results in effective language skills to learn and master the ability to teach the language. Other components of the teacher development goal in Wicoie Nandagikendan is for teaching staff is to hone their skills in early childhood development and be a conduit for the development of skills for students that are enrolled in Dakota and Ojibwe languages to become teachers of the language.
While there are numerous examples of on-going learning taking place through a variety of methods and approaches, there is an absence of a clear standard of an ideal number of training hours; established language competency standards for teachers; clear principles of theory and practice of Dakota and Ojibwe languages teaching and learning; and defined technical skills that would be helpful in establishing clear and measurable objectives and indicators for developing more and better teachers of the languages. One must be mindful that learning and teaching the native language was historically unscientific with no clear methods of measuring or grading practices. It was couched in the “oral history” of the native peoples where nothing was written. Learning the language was simply an expectation of growing up in the native environment. However, in today’s social institutions where most methods and tactics are routine, compartmentalized and linear, it is difficult to merge the two societies.
In response, Wicoie Nandikendan teaching and other staff does participate in the limited opportunities available for professional development and where it is not available, may sometimes create learning/teaching opportunities for them to learn, to teach, to share and develop opportunities for others to learn the language. With limited resources, this may be the best possible resource for the development of more and better language teachers of Ojibwe and Dakota languages.
Teaching staff complete Quarterly Reports to document activities related to their development as learners; as well as being teachers of the language for the children.
Language and Language Teaching Training. Each year staff participates in training to improve their language skills. In the past year, staff attended several meetings and conferences including the Minnesota Indigenous Languages Symposium, held at the Shakopee Sioux Mdewakanton reservation; Ojibwe Language Camp, at Fond du Lac Ojibwe Indian reservation; Ojibwe Language ceremonies, held at various sites, and; attended immersion teaching classrooms. Classroom participation included teacher’s demonstrating lessons, Scope and Sequence in the Immersion Classroom and Storytelling. Staff also participated in cultural ceremonies including smudging and pipe ceremonies, Elders talking circles were attended to increase opportunities for speaking and conversing in the language. These activities provided an opportunity for developing conversational native language speaking skills; such an opportunity is not always available in the classroom, but is required if one is to sharpen native language skills. They not only sharpen the language skills already possessed, but learn the nuances and dialect of others.
Observation of classrooms and hosting observers of the language classrooms were also activities to improve language and language teaching skills for staff. Several visitors to the Wicoie Nandikendan classrooms were hosted throughout the year. MNTRAC Mille lacs, Red Lake, a classroom group from Manitoba Canada and Yuchi tribal members observed classrooms. Program staff from local organizations also observed classroom throughout the year (e.g. Circle Newspaper staff, MYACC representatives, Nutritional Awareness Program, etc.). Staff from the Ojibwe Immersion and Dakota Immersion classrooms also visited and observed each other’s classrooms throughout the year.
Language tables are also opportunities to learn, speak and practice the language with other speakers. Staff attended and participated in several language tables throughout the year. In some cases, the staff at Wicoie Nandikendan developed and hosted language tables in sites throughout the community. While there continues to be challenges in engaging participants to attend and participate in language tables, these opportunities are critical to the continued growth and revitalization of the languages. Wicoie Nandikendan contributes to this effort.
Language revitalization efforts are occurring throughout the region and nationally. There have been numerous articles and books written on what is needed to revitalize Native languages. Yet the nature of language revitalization as inseparable from the culture, re-emerging, growing, and changing, limits the development of a structured approach to development of teachers. Wicoie Nandikendan, supported by the literature should continue to explore approaches that will support the continued development of innovative approaches including the use of technology, teaching methods and exploring the role of families and communities in enriching the development of language efforts. Simultaneously, staff should work with evaluators to identify standards, objectives and clear indicators in this area.
Outcome: Parent/caregiver and community involvement in classroom, language revitalization efforts leading to parent language development.
Status: Outcomes Met
Parent participation in classrooms and activities outside of the classroom to support language revitalization were through parent participation in talking circles and as identified by program staff. In addition to student/parent conferences that staff conducts on a regular basis, parents engage in and support classroom activities.
“__ mother came in for the smudging circle and for activity time.”
“__ father participated in the reading time and listened to __ as she showed a book.”
“A parent of a former student came to visit the office to brainstorm on how to more effectively maintain her language skills.”
“__ is attempting to get into the immersion classroom and her father has been able to come to work in the music/drumming classes.”
These are only a few of the examples available in staff reports on parent/caregiver involvement in the classroom. There is also anecdotal information on parent leading language tables or taking the students on fieldtrips throughout the school year.
Parents/caregivers also note how the language learning extends beyond the classroom.
“My kids actually take home a lot. I think it is also helpful, because my mom speaks the language … but both of my children, they come home every single day [and bring the language home] even though they haven’t been in the Dakota class this summer …”
“…Me and my daughter try and utilize it at home as much as possible. I think she understand more than she speaks it. Because I ask her questions, I will give her directions in Ojibwe and she will do it.”
Perhaps most indicative of how the community is impacted by Wicoie is the reference to many alumni of the program that are teaching and continuing to develop their language skills through college classrooms and language programs throughout Minnesota and beyond.
Appendix A: Parent Reflections
The Indian parent and child relationship demonstrates the importance of the traditional Indian family ways, supported by the culture and traditional ways of Indian people. While Wicoie Nandagikendan is primarily Dakota and Ojibwe tribes, many of the values within these tribes are interchangeable across tribal identities.
In one particular interview, a parent shared her experience. This parent was proud of her child, as was evident during the interview.
I am proud of the whole program, the immersion classroom. My daughter can easily relate to the teachers, because they are both Dakota and Lakota. There are some resemblances with the lead teacher compared to her grandma. So, I think she finds it a little comforting to work with somebody that looks like her and sounds like her own relatives as well as the kids. She has grown really close to the teachers and misses them when they are not here.
The conversation turned to whether Native language reinforcement occurred at home to augment the language acquired in the classroom. Native language advocates argue that in order for the language learning experience to have as much potential as possible, it must also be spoken at home. While we do have language programs that are organized, the same organized programming is not present in the home.
As of right now, her grandma is the only one that speaks Lakota to her. I am still learning and when she does; she does bring the language home. She likes to count in Dakota. And she likes to sing the prayer song in Dakota and she is able to relate to her grandmother and me and everyone else in my family that way, because we all know some of the prayer songs and the honor songs. So it is nice to get our family together for dinner and have her already know the prayer songs that she learned in school. So she sings with us when we pray before our meal.
While it is difficult to analyze and evaluate the “learning curve” as applied to the classroom and Native language learning experience, talk about some of the things you see your child learning.
She loves to count. She taught me how to count actually in Dakota all the way up to 10. She sings a song almost every day. From what I remember the teachers told me the song is to help the young ones to greet each other. But she always comes home and says “hoka-he yahi.” And then they are supposed to introduce themselves. So they are learning how to acknowledge each other that way. I think it is saying something like welcome; you are welcome here or something in English in translation. So she brings that home and she has me and she says that to everyone when they come into the home. And she has had me learn it, too. So, I try my best to do it with her at home. She brings a little more of the songs home I think. It has more of an impact on her. And the numbers, memorizing the numbers in the form of a song. She knows that her uncle sings and her grandma sings so it is more relatable to her.
She is obviously has reinforced by her home in what is happening here. She is probably picking up on the language from like a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best she is learning. I would say maybe a three or a four. Because she just started; when did she start? I would say in October of 2014. In addition, it has only been a few months. So I feel like maybe a year from now, she will be over at least five on the scale. She has only been here three (3) months, but she understands commands and what is told to her in Dakota, she responds by doing it.
We have budgets and programs and professionals that do not understand the importance of Native language. There is a situation where we do not have a central library of language materials and resources. We need a library for those kinds of things, like a repository. So, if Indians developed a video, this particular video could be an historic piece. What we do not have is a recording of our history, and language is part of our history today; we do not have a library or a recording of how these things came about. Indians have to learn from an oral interpretation of tradition and culture and that is the way it has always been. But today, with technology and the world of technology we have to deal in the absence of our oral history. Because if and when we go for funding for programs, they will say if you have done these five years ago, do you have a recording of what you have done?
Yeah, I think with the language the selling point would be being able to have the youth or the young ones find their self-identity at a young age. Because what I was taught was if you do not have any self-identity or if you do not have these values or anything related to that you can lose your way in life. I feel it would be really good, it would be able to guide at least the Native youth in the right direction and what is important with their tribe or their community and why it is important. In addition, what are these values that we need to remember when you work with each other and when you talk with each other. Because when I learn even just interviewing for the video, well even my dad told me that our voice is sacred and it is medicine. So we have to be really careful about what we say and how we say it.
A parent was asked: Do you or can you identify anything in the Wicoie program that attracts you as a parent to the school or others like you to the school in terms of the linkage or supporting the child supporting the language effort? The question was asked because, the testimony in the past has been; not the testimony, just the evidence and observations have been that we have made great strides in efforts of providing for language instruction here. But there are not resources or whatever it takes to have the parents engaged in that transaction between students and the instructor. So when the student leaves from the school, there are little if any resources or support them at home. Is there anything happening between the administrators of this project or the teachers of this project and the parents?
There should, I feel like there should be resources that parents can take home like flash cards or stuff like that. I have asked about it and she said she was going to make me some so I can bring it home. And if we can get names for items at home like how do you say fridge, or stove or chair and tape it up for the parents to see so they can start memorizing it on a daily basis. I think that would help reinforce it at home too. And then I think it would be nice to have a parent come in and have it be a requirement or maybe not a requirement, but if there was one parent who came in; because work is probably one of the reasons they wouldn’t come in. It would be nice to compensate them to help someone come into the classroom and learn at the same time with their children. I think that would be really helpful for the parents. Or even if they could provide lunch. I think having a parent involved somehow in the classroom would be awesome. I think there should be some type of lunch or a little compensation.
The last thing to ask you is if you had your wishes, what you would like to see or work that are better off or addition to the good work that has already been done. What would you like to see? It could be anything, materials, hours or evaluation or whatever your perspective is.
I would like to push for more hours and at the same time individual plans for each child. Like maybe set plans or goals. And within the first three months she will learn how to count to twenty in Dakota. Just individual plans on what she will learn on that short amount of time. I know that would take a lot of time for the teachers to put that together. But it would be really nice to have individual plans like that and have the materials sent home so it can be reinforced at home. And after the due date or whatever date that is set do a test and see if she was able to learn it like they were hoping. And adjust her plan from here on out. That is just at the top of my head.
Are you happy where your child is at?
Yeah, I am just really proud of her. And it has opened up a lot of her; it has changed my way of thinking for her. It is good to see her talking in Dakota. Eventually I know when she gets older she will hopefully learn the difference between the dialects.
Appendix B: Wicoie Talking Circle
August 15, 2014
John: This is 4:10 on 8/15/14. Can we get, do you do any kind of adding up of the scores or summarization or anything like that?
Person: We already have the scores on that color printout.
Person: I gave all of that to Melanie. All of that stuff from the beginning. I told her I need it back, because I need it for the Grotto Report.
John: The first question I had for you is what are some of the reasons parents or the caregivers of the child or student; why do they enroll their children in the Wicoie language program? Do you have any idea why they do that?
Person: I am going to go back to; this would be interesting to have another staff too. Part of the reason why I got involved with Wicoie is when I was working with Anishinabe Academy back in 2006; I was seeing people come around. We would get 300-500 parents at a shot at the parent activities. We would have a questionnaire and say what do you want for your children? Over and over again we would hear Native parents say I want their children to know their language and their culture. They said, even above being successful academically. When we put it that way, when we said, what would you rather have: would you rather have your children know their language and their culture or be successful academically? This is a really tough question. They chose their language and culture. That is a pretty good sampling when you have 300-500 people show up and you see that happen. So, when I saw that, I thought.
John: So you had actual surveys of that?
Person: Yeah, I was the one who did the surveys. I thought we are going to use those surveys. A colleague might still have that data. That would be interesting. That is what drove me to say, we have got to provide this for our kids.
John: When did you say, 2005?
Person: I think it probably was 2005 or 2006. 2005 probably.
Person: 2005, because you started Wicoie here in 2006.
John: So, the first time you heard that such numbers and volume that carries on from year to year?
Person: And I was seeing that. I started to do; I saw Wicoie was doing the same thing, because there were other teachers coming in working with the kids at the preschool level. My job was, I was alcohol tobacco and other drugs. I would go in and say the best thing for prevention is positive cultural identity. Looking at tobacco differently. Looking at how you can use tobacco in a traditional way. And maybe using traditional tobacco like herbal tobacco or the old seed tobacco. So, I saw that. I saw kids wanting to learn their language and their culture and feeling successful when they did. So that is when I said do you know what it is time for me. I better start to learn to speak the language. I never learned to how to do this, but this is how the kids will be successful.
John: I wanted to go onto another question as a follow up. To ask about what are things that go on in the classroom. What kind of activities or exchanges?
Person: Well the first thing, we were really lucky, because we were a little family circle. We have various ages. The first time they came in when Lillian was there was perfect. They would come give me a hug and then give Lillian a hug. Now that Lillian hasn’t been there they come in give me a hug. Then they get time to get acclimated to being in the classroom, because we want them to feel safe and comfortable. They have a little time to transition. They can choose an area to spend time in. I usually set up a few things; they don’t have to play with those things. They are there as attention getters like new things. They always have things they can interact with every single one of them.
They then all sign in. Even our tiniest ones come and do a sign in. So these little tiny, tiny ones even at sixteen months. It is very, very sweet because they realize this is an expectation. They know to pick up a marker and make their mark. So they are learning, to me it is a sense of accountability. They are learning, I am here now and now I sign in.
So they get a time to gradually come to the table after they are done getting acclimated to the room. And I have an activity for the kids. There will be an activity for the older little kids and an activity for the younger kids. There will be like hand development, hand eye coordination development, writing and introduction to writing. Then we look up at the clock and say: “oh it is clean up time” so we all start singing the clean-up song.
Then the next thing we sing let’s sit in a circle song. Then there is a whole variety of songs, like how do you feel today song; like how do you feel. Then we have a chart where they learn about math concepts where they get a chart and find a picture of themselves. That is an identity and feeling experience where they say that is me. So we take a picture, an old picture and they have all sorts of pictures of feelings and we ask how do you feel today? Are you scared, are you hungry are you happy? So they learn how to express their feelings. Do you feel good today? And what happens then is if they say oh I am tired. Then I will ask them a question in Ojibwe. And this is where I don’t mind if they answer in English or in Ojibwe. They say I didn’t go to sleep last night, because someone was really loud and my mom was mad so I am sad today. I think yay, they are expressing their feelings. So at that point, I am really glad they are expressing what is going on. I will ask them in Ojibwe, why. If it is really rough like if the cops were there and really bad. We will say hey you guys so and so is feeling sad, let’s smudge and have a talking circle. So whatever I was planning goes out the window. I am like let’s do a smudge; the kids know how to use the eagle feather. We have different songs. There are some ceremony songs, but there is a song the kids pick up a lot that goes: rest yourself, we know you are sad. And then they learn if he says he is going through a hard time, the other kids will say we are here for you. It teaches them to care for each other.
John: I like that, because they are learning about emotion and expressing things. That is good again. And how do, I don’t know if they do; how do they share what they do in the classroom?
Person: Like if they create something?
John: Yeah, if they do something in the classroom how do they share what they do in the classroom? Do they tell others about it? Is there an outlet for that?
Person: Yeah, we have several different ways. We have a bulletin board in the classroom and two bulletin boards in the hallway. They get to choose to post their things. Sometimes they are really proud of something that I don’t know they have created something. Every day we have journal time right after lunch. Some of them are washing their hands, using the bathroom or cleaning up. When they are done doing that, they can go on the ground and do their journals. A lot of time what they will do is they will write something or draw something they are really proud of. It is something they do at this site and I am really glad the other teachers will do this too. They will say put your picture wherever you want to put it in the classroom. They will get a piece of tape and they will put it on the door or put it on the wall. They put up things they are proud of what they made.
Person: When I do a newsletter too, I will read the newsletter to them. They say look in the newsletter, so and so said this about Ojibwe. They will say ooh.
Person: I remember something about them when they start to say a word or speak it in the language it changes how they feel.
Person: We do, we also do concepts about friends. They say you can get started on concepts about friends early. So we have a reading time. We have a listening time where I am reading books in Ojibwe and they can choose an Ojibwe book to look on and read. We also have two letter walls where we practice that. Where if they come up with a new word like if you say a word in Ojibwe, then I draw a picture of that and we sound it out and so then they practice sounding it out. So then they are learning beginning letter sounds.
At the end, I had two four year olds who were turning five. They would take the cards which had a picture on there. If they didn’t know what it was in Ojibwe, they would try and take a sneak a look in the back where it was written in Ojibwe. Sometimes they would figure out the word. Two of them were getting good at that. Actually, three of them where they could look at the back and say this word.
John: I suppose there are varying ages when they come in through the classroom. Therefore there is a variety of exposures to where they have come to already. How do you measure once they are in the classroom? How do you mark their improved or their enhanced ability to understand the language?
Person: It will be interesting, because you can see their face like I want to do the color song. So then we have whoever wants to do it, go up and sing the song. They will sing the colors and someone will say where is red, touch red. Then I can see who knows that or who doesn’t know that. If I listen to them singing and this happens, there will be a little boy who learned two of them. That is as far as he went, but I could hear him doing that. He was also getting caught up on the number 7. He would count up and He would skip 7 and then go onto 8. So then I thought how could we do this different? So then I brought out this number puzzle where they jump on it so they can use their whole body. We count and when he would jump on 7. I was like yay and cheer. Now he is using his whole body to learn that number.
John: I don’t know if anybody has done; there is an old saying and you don’t have to own this or honor it in anyways. But you know where there bureaucrats are at while in grad school they would drill it in my head, if you can’t count it you haven’t done it. That is sort of the quantitative corner. I think what you are talking about is mostly qualitative, like emotion. I understand it and this is the way we learn. This is the way we have learned for centuries.
Person: That is what I think is really important work with our kids. Because if they look at us and think we are all about doing it the other way, they are not going to listen to us. I have seen it. Why am I going to listen to this person?
John: Is there any thought of Wicoie Nandagikendan to begin doing that so that you can tell white people or bureaucrats or policy makers this is how what you have opened up with. This is how we have enabled our children to be better learners, better achievers. If we can do that, we can have standards. Both in terms of the funding streams as well in the policy arena. We can go to Legislators and say this is what we have done and this is to show you to prove it this is how we will account with it.
Person: Well I think that is where Diane Sawyer had a chart. Where the kids who were in the Ojibwe classroom scored higher not only in Ojibwe of course, but in English then the kids who didn’t come. Because they are using different learning skills.
John: Can we get a hold of that?
Person: Yeah she was at the Brain Conference and works for Family Partnership.
Person: Isn’t that basically the same thing that Danielle Grant was showing. These kids in the classrooms are scoring higher in English and not just Ojibwe. They are learning in a different way and are more engaged.
Person: Part of our whole things is not just the language, but the culture. So we always include culture into what our lessons are. Like she is doing singing which is a big part of what our culture is about, the singing the drumming.
Person: I always try to bring in traditional foods from our garden and stuff like that.
Person: When you look at what she is doing, it really addresses all the areas what we as a people would normally do, before we had the European culture here. And we address those things: the math, the science and the biology. All those areas that are in our language already, they are all there. So when we are teaching lessons and you have the language and you do it in a cultural way, our kids really gravitate to that. They really want to learn.
Person: They really flourish.
Person: And we do, do; if it was really up to me and you can tell through the language that colors weren’t that big of a deal. But for regular school systems colors are a big deal. For us, colors weren’t that big of a deal. For us, yellow and brown are the same. Green and blue are the same too. There really isn’t a color for purple, so we make up colors like. We will say the color of the berry or the color of the sky for turquoise. So we have to make up words for colors. But according to all the tests, the ASQ3’s or even the early childhood tests; they have to know their colors. They have to know their colors. Instead of what would really be important if I were to redo it. You could think differently, but at this point we are still proving the kids can excel learning their language. Learning their culture and learning this other stuff, then we can excel in their way of learning too. Does that make sense?
John: Yeah, I think we all have to do that.
Person: Play the game, laughing.
John: When I went to public policy at Harvard, I was sitting there thinking this is all bull shit. But I can’t say that. But a couple of things I am trying to ask questions. But on the other hand I am also trying to encourage you to do some things that next year or the year after we won’t be scrambling for data to support our beliefs or our understandings about the gains that we have made. And we can begin to chart and plan the activities we are doing. But to gather data better and information. Then we can form that into a position and we can argue for the policy makers, educators and so forth. On the other hand we have to look back on ourselves too. It is how we can secure information from our own people. And is there research being done by our people? Or are there people who understand it? Is there any writing being done? I think there is and I know there is. In writings I do, it is not just my ideas. I tell it to other people who have witnessed some things. I have said things that say the same thing I have. And I say this person said this and that person said that. If you look at ASU and Braveheart who does mostly trauma.
Person: Maria Braveheart Yellowhorse.
John: Yes, she does some stuff on language stuff too. There was another guy named Pewewardy. Years ago used to be the principal over there and he has written extensively on the Native language. If you look at ASU and Beaulieu is there. They produce some writings and they are still doing that. I am just putting this out for you so you know more resources you can look at to argue your point. You can’t just say I am doing some good things over here and we are having fun and it is working. Because someone is going to come back here to say: how do you know?
Person: Prove it!
John: You don’t have to necessarily prove it. But you have to give some kind of data, information or research.
Person: And this is the perfect time right now to really look at re-doing evaluation too. We have been using the same system of evaluating with like 20 sentences. Do they understand what this means? Can they tell you what it means? The color, the numbers, the picture cards. Can they produce the words or can they touch the words when you say them. So our evaluations right now are for like the older kids like 3-5. I know it doesn’t sound very old. But it is number concepts, beginning number concepts, identifying numbers and knowing what it means. Colors, and we do 20 sentences or commands. That word commands we are just using it like a linguistic term like: do you need to use the bathroom or are you hungry and they tell what it means. That kind of stuff. And the IGDI cards like the ones in English are what this is. So there are, I don’t know how many there are; hundreds of them. But it is a timed test. They only get three minutes to say what it is, and what that is. So that is what I do with them. The other one is touch the: touch the plate. Touch the pen.
John: What do you call that?
Person: I-G-D-I Cards.
John: So on the IGDI are there measurements?
Person: Yes, we will do percentages. Like what percentage did this child get correct? Usually their production will be lower than their comprehension. Comprehension would be like if they had five things here and I said touch the pen that would be comprehension. When I do production, I will say: what is this. And you say that is a pen, then I know you are producing the language. If I say: what is this. You say it is a napkin that is production.
John: Can you write a couple of sentences or paragraph on that and send it to me?
Person: Sure, I would’ve thought Melanie was going to give you the test results.
Person: She probably will, because she was taking notes.
John: I wanted to hear something like that, so we could put it in a little box. For example.
Person: But you have adapted it to say commands in Ojibwe right?
Person: Oh well, okay that is just one section of the test. So this is the IGDI section of the test like touch is the comprehension part. But the production part is: what is this. Then we have a section of number concepts. So number concepts are do they know what the number seven means and how high can they count. So if I write down; it is the number concepts are I write down this or if they see it can they say it in Ojibwe. And the color part is and this is truly interesting too. So far we have only done inanimate, but I had two girls that were really getting there was animate vs. inanimate. So these are inanimate, but this is animate. So you would say miskwa, it is red. So with color you would do that. If I was being more culturally relevant like I like to be at some point; like I said those two twins a few years ago, they would say alive vs. not alive in the language. So they were getting that and they were remembering what objects are alive and what objects were not alive. That is a tough thing.
Person: And I remembered not this year, but last year the kids in another class were teaching the kids math. And another teacher wasn’t teaching any math at all. And yet when it came time to test the kids in the English, they knew all their numbers.
Person: And they only heard them in Dakota? Laughing.
Person: They had only been taught in Dakota. Our kids can really grasp things so much better in the language then they do in English. Just the math comes easier.
John: That is a powerful statement. At a Legislative hearing if somebody asked you: how do you know this? And you told that story about kids learning numbers in the language.
Person: Only in Dakota, but they repeated in English they translated it.
John: Let me encourage you folks to collect those kinds of nuggets. I would call them nuggets, because what it demonstrates to me is the children are advancing here. Whether it is in Native Language or numbers.
Person: Here is a beautiful nugget. I had a little one that was I think she might have been twenty months and we were talking about weather. When we were talking about the weather and we were saying did you hear the thunderbirds and thunder beings. Those are the two words I was saying so all of the sudden there was a big old clap of thunder. She threw her hand in the air and said spirits in Ojibwe. She didn’t call them thunder birds or thunder beings she called them spirits. She knew what we were talking about and she had a concept. I love that. To me it shows she was what do you call it; she was pulling out the meaning of the word to more than I had given her that is for sure.
John: So these would be some of the enhanced or improved language skills. We will probably want to do this again when the Dakota person is here too. Here is another, I want to change gears here just a little bit. And I want to ask you how it impacts the family.
Person: That is really something. I can tell so many stories. The twins we are talking about, the grandma and the mom kept the language table going. They would always take the kids to the language camps around the state. And now the mom is really doing as much as she can to make sure there is rigor in the educational programs at Bdote. Because her girls are going to go there. That is a nice example of that.
Another one is, there was trouble at Anishinabe Academy. Where a little girl a teacher was aggressive towards a little girl. So they pulled that girl out of Anishinabe Academy. This girl was a first grader; they put her in our center. They asked if she could be in my classroom, because her younger sister was in my classroom. And they knew that would be a nurturing environment for her to be in if she could learn Ojibwe.
Another one is, there was a mom who wants to learn the language. Her mom knows the language and the little girl was getting really good in the language. She created her own traditional song like an old style song calling the spirits to help us learn the language. So I shared that with the family. And then this year I gave the family those traditional seeds packets from the Dream of Wild Health, these are old traditional seeds. And they all live in the same house. The little nephew transformed the side of the house into the garden. When I saw the garden, I thought it looked better than our farm. So mom and grandma are thinking he might be a little traditional leader and a spiritual leader. I went to visit him and gave him a book with a language CD on there.
John: It sounds like you have some good stories of how children impact family positively. Do you think it helps build stronger families?
Person: Most definitely, because that particular family the grandma is wanting to work on her language. Now the daughter took the Ojibwe language teaching position at Anishinabe Academy. And I don’t know if her daughter is going to Bdote.
Person: Yeah she is.
Person: So when this person came to the teaching sharing event, she had commented on how grateful she was to be a part of language revitalization. And if it wasn’t for Margaret for pushing her and asking her, she would not have learned her language as far as she knows it. She is actually teaching it now. She is teaching it again.
That is another piece the teacher development Wicoie does.
Person: One of our interns will be teaching Ojibwe at the U. One of our Wicoie interns. That is huge too.
Person: That is another big piece at Wicoie. But you are right; in terms of we need to start collecting those stories. We have a ton of them and putting them together.
John: Just put them in a file folder and stuff them in there. At some point you can pull them out and aggregate them and make a testimonial or print them in a newsletter. I don’t know that there are a whole lot of people out there that know what Native language is about. When you talk about Native language most people go into the mainstream side into linguistics and the Anglo-scientific. And the way that you; I don’t demean anything you have done, but it is different than when I was a child. If we would have or if anybody would have tried to teach the language the way you are doing it, the old people would rally.
Person: Laughter, they still might too!
John: I don’t denigrate anything you are doing. I am very proud of what you are doing. Because we need to do that. I just wrote an article about that the changes I have been seeing over my lifetime. The way younger people are acquiring the language and the culture; or the culture more. And it is sort of like we go to whatever and what is the Gizikhan? What is the Sundance? And you can get all that definition in there. You don’t have to go seek out an elder that is the old way. You guys have had very fortunate to have the resource to do that. So, you have changed things. It is neither right nor wrong. It is the way things are.
Person: Part of being adaptable for sure.
Person: You know that is the exact word that Dream of Wild Health wanted to use. They said we need to use that word adaptable instead of resiliency. Because adaptable has a different meaning behind it.
John: Do you know what resilient means is restored to its former shape like before. Look in the dictionary. That is what it means. So this is kind of colonialism at its best. So they are trying to restore us to what we weren’t. It is the Western European mind at work trying to restore the Indian into what they want us to be. It is a tricky way to go. We go through this in policy all of the time. A bunch of useless white guys sitting in the cubicle writing away the rules and regulations, procedures and designing evaluations. Then they roll it out on us and we have to act to those things. And we have to behave to those things the way they tell us to behave. And that is kind of where evaluation where we are trying to be more qualitative. We want you to tell us the stories. And we can tell that story and convince in what you have done may not be qualitatively empirical evidence, but it can be the Indian evidence nonetheless. And we need to lay these out, so they become best practices. Indian best practices rather than mainstream best practices.
Person: I think and I hear what you are saying in terms of the resiliency and adaptability. I think those are important.
Person: It is how something is all of the sudden like bam. Because even I get the Sierra Club Magazine. They said we are no longer going to say that we are nature conservancy. We are no longer going to say we are providing resilient habitats. I went whoa, that is interesting. They said they don’t want to use the word resilient anymore, because things are changing and we have to change. I thought whoa that is a little scary when you think at it like that, because things are changing.
John: Some of these terms are such a slight of hand. What is that food shelves or something, poverty or hungry.
Well what are some of the good things that are happening at Wicoie that you can tell me?
Person: Oh boy, now I just got…
John: I mean from your point of view, what is your perception of where you would like to be.
Person: When I started thinking about and this is a little different scale. But when you look at the teachers that are over at Bdote, they are almost all former interns. I think they are all former interns of Wicoie. And now the new program up at Red Lake. One of our old interns is starting the language program up at Red Lake. So if you look at these other language programs too, a lot of what we have provided the ability for things to go beyond just an early childhood classroom in Dakota and an early childhood classroom in Ojibwe. We are looking at; we can provide the support for it to continue on. And not get lost. So that to me is, we have really helped some leaders get their toes and now their feet and now their beings into language education. Not just language education, but Indian Education is how you can say it.
John: Here is one that I have asked every evaluation we have done. What are some of the challenges; rather what are some of the barriers while working at Wicoie?
Person: Challenges or priorities. The biggest challenge I always see is it is hard to get the families to learn the language to be supportive of the children that are learning the language. But in Indian country the turn-around is pretty fast. Pretty soon the kids are parents. Laughing. I don’t mean to laugh at that, but it is the truth. That is to me the biggest challenge is engaging the parents and getting the parents to use the language at home. Yeah that is tough.
John: Is there more than an average of wherever your travels are, are there more people encouraged or enthused about the language than ever before?
Person: Oh, I am seeing that. Even this last weekend up at Grand Portage we saw signage and we saw t-shirts. Most of the t-shirts I saw had language on there. A few years ago, it was so rare to see signage or language. I saw posters and books. Now a lot of the agencies are looking at incorporating language on some level. So you are seeing it more and more. I am grateful for that. And that I think might spur more adults into: wait a second I really want to learn my language. I am hoping.
John: Do you think we have enough resources?
Person: Never, laughter.
Person: What did you say you know the way kids have to get enrolled in the program can sometimes be challenging. For the parents in terms of, they have to meet they have to fill out those forms very extensively.
Person: That is a really big challenge. For childcare, for people that are low income childcare is really, really rough. Because they make you jump through all these paperwork hoops to keep your childcare. And a lot of times you are not eligible if you completed whatever support program you are in. Like if you get out of a shelter or you get out of your sobriety program you might get cut off from your childcare. That happens time and time again. If you don’t fill out your paperwork is what happens the most frequently. That is how most of my kids get dropped from my class or exit from my class is that something happened where their paperwork wasn’t complete and they had to get pulled.
John: So couldn’t you just have a child out of somebody’s family come without the childcare financial?
Person: What is it like $1,000 a month?
Person: It is like $120 a week just for the morning piece, the three hours or something like that. That is what family partnership charges. It is like $120 something just for the a.m. It would be about $250 for the week.
Person: It is really expensive.
John: So that is your base operation right. That site over there.
Person: Yeah right now, but we have two sites.
John: Is Bdote the other one?
Person: No, we have this one right now. We have two over here through Family Partnership.
Person: But across the country, I was listening to MPR and they said that it is not uncommon where most early childhood care is about $1,000 a month.
John: So why, I am just curious why can’t you open up a childcare center?
Person: Because of all the regulations. You have to have a bathroom where the toilet is so many inches. Actually there is a 407 point check off. I have to do, to show that we are actually accredited. 407 different things that we have to take pictures of and show that those things are being met. Like the length of the table legs. The size of the chair and stuff like that. It is crazy.
Person: So those are challenges. I think that too is put in place and barriers to learning the language. Now if we had a center where you could bring your child in for a learning environment. In this day and age that is something we are trying to address in terms of scholarships. That is a huge challenge I think to this community. To either come up with $1,000, but it became quite expensive. And even then so I would say that is a challenge if you are low income.
Person: I think it is a societal problem. They come in and say there is a safety issue, because your chair is not the right size and you are not providing. Honestly they say that.
Person: It detours.
Person: What it is designed to do I think is not that many people are seeking childcare. I think it is that kind of thing the old general college plan that not enough people are getting in here, so we might as well close the program. It doesn’t cost anything. It makes me so mad. I could spit.
Person: But that is one of the challenges. And parent involvement is another.
Person: And it is part of that old blame the victim, I feel like. Like you really messed up.
Person: It is part of classism.
Person: You messed up, so you can’t get childcare. Childcare is so expensive and these people don’t qualify for childcare it’s not necessary so we might as well get rid of it and save the government a dime.
John: I have one last…
Person: Sorry about that, you pressed a hot button.
John: The last thing I wanted to ask you for today. So what are some of the professional development opportunities you have had as a result being here?
Person: I just went to one. I was at the Carla Institute where I was a presenter. But I went too and man, was that fun.
John: What was the purpose of that?
Person: It was, what did it stand for? It was through the University of Minnesota and it is an international language, C-A-R-L-A.
John: That is not necessary.
Person: And what they were doing was showing different techniques for getting kids attention. Different things that get kids to learn concepts. Like I want to do that one, and I want to do that one. So that is really fun when we get to see that and pick up.
John: How about anything else?
Person: I think as long as I have known, I think you have had the opportunity to work with a mentor. That has been a huge growth.
Person: Every week we would do the language table with Rick Grezyk and I would get to pick his brain. I need that.
Person: Center for Advanced Research and Language Acquisition; CARLA.
Person: We have had, last summer we had that wonderful Native at Flagstaff. They sent us to Flagstaff and it was an all Native Language Acquisition people from different tribes.
John: Was that the one sponsored out of Santa Fe?
Person: I loved it and it was really fun. We could see what they were doing in Dine country. I liked their verb cards and I am working on those. Just seeing what other tribes are doing is very helpful.
John: Where was that held?
And seeing what kind of challenges they have. Oh my Gosh, when you are working in an English only state, it is horrible. I felt so bad.
John: Do you guys ever do anything with Canada or have any Canadian relationships?
Person: I do go up to when they have things like the language camps. I will go to the language camps and will present at the language camps. They always have people from Canada. Like last weekend at the powwow there were these elder ladies who are fluent speakers. I would ask them questions like: how do you say this? What was that? So they sang a song and I didn’t know the particular word beginning in the song. She said it is a really, really old way of saying extremely botched. That was, they were the elders that worked with.
John: So language camp?
Person: Yeah language camp at Sawyer. I always work at that one. And those ladies, there was one of the ladies that worked with the Ojibwe immersion weekends.
John: Okay why don’t we just zip it up for the night. This is good and I appreciate it.
Appendix C: Language Talking Circle
January 14, 2015
John: Well today is the 14th.
This is, I have here a person who has a four (4) year old daughter in the Dakota classroom at Wicoie Nandagikendan. And we are just going to do a little talk about how it is going here. I just want to find out from the parent’s perspective how she sees the school and classroom. And how she relates to her child in the classroom. Sort of a triangular relationship. And what does it mean. What does it mean to you to have a child in the Wicoie classroom?
Person: Well, I am really proud of the whole program, the immersion classroom. My daughter can easily relate to the teachers, because they are both Dakota and Lakota. There are some resemblances with the lead teacher compared to her grandma. So I think she finds it a little comforting to work with somebody that looks like her and sounds like her own relatives as well as the kids. She has grown really close to the teachers and misses them when they are not here, especially when they have a break.
My family is Lakota and her dad is Ojibwe. But we decided to put her in the Dakota Immersion Program, because we live with her Lakota grandparents right now. We thought it would be more beneficial to have her in the classroom learning Dakota so she can bring it home and talk to her grandparents using the language. And at the same time it is making me feel more open to learning the language more than before. Because I want to be able to speak with her in Lakota as well. And my mom grew up speaking Lakota and it is really important within my family to reinforce that for her in her early years.
John: That kind of leads me to the follow up situation that we wanted to learn about and that is about how you and your child speak the Native language at home. Does that reinforce the child’s language skills at the school or during the classroom activity?
Person: As of right now, her grandma is the only one that speaks Lakota to her. I am still learning and when she does; she does bring the language home. She likes to count in Dakota. And she likes to sing the prayer song in Dakota and she is able to relate to her grandmother and me and everyone else in my family that way, because we all know some of the prayer songs and the honor songs. So it is nice to get our family together for dinner and have her already know the prayer songs that she learned in school. So she sings with us when we pray before our meal.
So I think her seeing that at home reinforces her to come here and pay more attention to the words and songs that they sing here.
John: Now she is what would you say four years old. When was she exposed to the language here?
Person: She was more exposed to it when she first started here last fall. We would, her dad would talk more Ojibwe with her before she even started class here. So I think she knew more commands in Ojibwe. And then when she started here, she started learning commands in Dakota. But the Dakota language was more reinforced when she first started school here.
John: So now that she has had this experience for a while, what are some of the things that she tells you about what goes on here? Are there games, counting, words; what are some of those things?
Person: She loves to count. She taught me how to count actually in Dakota all the way up to 10. She sings a song almost every day. From what I remember the teachers told me the song is to help the young ones to greet each other. But she always comes home and says “hoka-he yahi.” And then they are supposed to introduce themselves. So they are learning how to acknowledge each other that way. I think it is saying something like welcome; you are welcome here or something in English in translation. So she brings that home and she has me and she says that to everyone when they come into the home. And she has had me learn it to. So I try my best to do it with her at home. She brings a little more of the songs home I think. It has more of an impact on her. And the numbers, memorizing the numbers in the form of a song. She knows that her uncle sings and her grandma sings so she is more relatable to her.
John: She is obviously has reinforced by her home in what is happening here. She is probably picking up on the language from like a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best she is learning, of the measurement if you were to guess on the range where do you think she would be at?
Person: I would say maybe a 3 or a 4. Because she just started; when did she start? I would say in October of 2014. And it has only been a few months. So I feel like maybe a year from now, she will be over at least 5 on the scale. She has only been here three (3) months, but she understands commands and what is told to her in Dakota, she responds by doing it.
John: What has been some commentary testimony that or your own observations with her regular school work and this program. There’s been commentary it seems the Indian students learn better if they are exposed to Native language. Do you think there is any truth to that?
Person: Yeah, I believe that because we have been speaking our own Native language for hundreds and hundreds of years; even before English came. English hasn’t really been around too long. It is fairly a new language to us and it is already wired into our head our own language. I think learning and I have heard learning more than one or two languages at a really young age will help them develop even more in school and open pathways is what I have heard.
John: How many hours a week does she spend here?
Person: Here, she is three (3) hours a week. Oh wait, three (3) hours every morning Monday-Friday.
John: That’s pretty good.
Does she speak Native without provocation?
Person: When she breaks into song yeah.
John: I understand she is musically inclined.
Person: Yeah, she will sing anywhere.
John: Well that is a good way to the language and it supports it. Our history people don’t think much about song. It is about relationship with the song, language and some of the old creation stories it’s all linked together. It is just hard to take the language out and put as one piece as they do in mainstream society. In mainstream there is English, there is math and whatever else.
What about the, do they have really good staff working with the project?
Person: The staff here, I feel like the hours right now are good. But I would really love if it were a full day. I don’t know why there isn’t a full day. But I feel that would definitely make a big difference in how much she learns.
Yeah so she is here three (3) hours every morning and it would definitely be nice to keep her here all day, maybe at least for another three (3) hours for a total of six (6) hours.
For the teachers, I feel there are enough teachers, because right now there are not too many students in the classroom. Which is really nice, because they can focus on each student almost individually at times. And I think the teachers are doing really well.
John: Are there any things you do more with the school more than the classroom and teacher relationship?
Person: Yeah I really love the idea of her being in a Dakota immersion class to the point where I wanted to make a video about her experience personally. And I am hoping the teachers can use the video at some point or to be able to share it. I interviewed the teachers and I even interviewed another parent who was in the classroom with her daughter at that time. I was able to be in the classroom and observe and film at the same time. I am more than happy to create a tool they can utilize to help bring in more awareness as to what is going on in these Dakota immersion classes. And why it is important especially for Native people to know these languages at such an early age and why it is so important to us. That is what the video is going to be about.
John: Who do you think would be the audience for that kind of video?
Person: The audience I think would be educator’s maybe.
John: When you say educators what level?
Person: Probably the preschool level.
John: That is quite a challenge.
Person: Yeah preschool, maybe elementary. I mean, I feel like they might be related a little bit more to the importance of language. I mean to the video, because of the age range that is in the video. I think even grandparents or parents even.
John: What is the selling point? What is the so called ah-ha moment for them? I guess I am not really challenging you, but I am wondering about the audience. When you tell them about how good we have these Indian language classrooms, do you think they will automatically relate to that? Or is there interpretation or translation to the Native language benefits.
Person: So you are asking what would be
John: Yeah, it’s about values. So what is important to mainstream society is to know the material kinds of things. But in terms of what the language teaches it is more feelings.
Person: Yeah, I think with the language the selling point would be being able to have the youth or the young ones find their self-identity at a really young age. Because what I was taught was if you don’t have any self-identity or if you don’t have these values or anything related to that you can lose your way in life. I feel it would be a really good, it would be able to guide at least the Native youth in the right direction and what is important with their tribe or their community and why it is important. And what are these values that we need to remember when you work with each other and when you talk with each other. Because when I learn even just interviewing for the video; well even my dad told me that our voice is sacred and it is medicine. So we have to be really careful about what we say and how we say it.
John: That is important and I agree with you. Those are the Indian teachings which out here where we have budgets and programs and professionals they don’t understand that. That is why I am saying it if you put this together in a video and hope they would understand the chances are there is going to be a gap. You know as you talk, there is sort of a situation that we have where we don’t have a central library of language materials and resources. A library or that kind of things. So what you are talking about is something that could be the beginning of such a repository. At some point when people want to know about this particular video you have prepared and developed they can see that. And five years down the line it could be a historic piece. Which we don’t necessarily have is a recording of our history. And that is part of our history today, we don’t have a library or a recording of how these things came about. And it is a good thing. We have to learn from the interpretation of tradition and culture and that is the way it has always been. But in today with technology and the world of technology we have to deal with this stuff. Because if we go for funding for programs, they will say if you have done this five years ago don’t you have a recording of what you have done; nope.
Person: I have one more things about how the teachers can relate to the video. I know from experience there is standards in teaching right now for all teachers in Minnesota where they have to educate their students about the contributions of Native tribes in Minnesota and history. So I think using the video can definitely fall under it doesn’t even have to be this video, but any videos related to Native culture, history or language would be beneficial to teachers in the classroom because as a standard they have to do it anyways. That was a main thing that I just thought of that I have been learning about. I think that has been a standard here for more than a few years. And there are teachers who I know from schools who are struggling who are trying to figure out how to bring that into their schools, because they don’t have the resources to bring a Native person in. So they just read books or watch movies about Native people. That is another project I am a part of is going to schools and educating these schools who don’t have those resources about our history. And using media as another way to teach them about the importance of land or the connection to land and history.
John: So this is a relatively small project at Wicoie Nandagikendan. And the need, depending on who you talk to, but there is a need out there for Native language instruction speaking and understanding. And what we have here is a program that pretty much relies on preschool resources and also the tail end of Native Language dollars. So is there any ideas you have on how we could use what is going on here to tell others this is a good idea.
Person: Well that is a good question. The only thing that I can personally think of just from my work is doing media related work around the importance and finding the right people to share why they think it is important. And then use or create some type of video about that. Use it maybe as a campaign or share something they can use video to help the campaign.
John: For me to mostly talk to on something like this to mostly talk about Indian people like the Legislature or the School Board, the County Board or the City Council and teacher groups whatever they may be.
Do you or can you identify anything in the Wicoie program that attracts you as a parent to the school or others like you to the school in terms of the linkage or supporting the child supporting the language effort?
Child speaking to parent.
John continued after the child spoke: The testimony in the past has been; not the testimony, just the evidence and observations have been that we have made efforts of providing for language instruction here. But there aren’t resources or whatever it takes to have the parents engaged in that transaction between students and the instructor. So when the student leaves here at the school, there are little if any resources or support at home. So is there anything happening between the administrators of this project or the teachers of this project and the parents. Or should there be, or just leave it as it is?
Person: There should, I feel like there should be resources that parents can take home like flash cards or stuff they can. Like I’ve asked Brenda about it to and she said she was going to make me some so I can bring it home.
And if we can get names for items at home like how do you say fridge, or stove or chair and tape it up for the parents to see so they can start memorizing it on a daily basis. I think that would help reinforce it at home too.
And then I think it would be nice to have a parent come in and have it be a requirement or maybe not a requirement, but if there was one parent who came in; because work is probably one of the reasons they wouldn’t come in. It would be nice to compensate them to help someone come into the classroom and learn at the same time with their children. I think that would be really helpful for the parents. Or even if they could provide lunch. I think having a parent involved somehow in the classroom would be awesome. I think there should be some type of lunch or a little compensation.
John: A little trade off or appreciation or something. Both ways, it works both ways. By you showing up it is a reward to the school and teachers. By you showing up there should be some recognition too.
I think you have given me a good profile about some of the things that I wanted to talk about and some of your responses are really worthwhile. Most of the time we talk to teachers, instructors and administrators. I know we are sort of lacked in talking with parents. You have done a wonderful job in fulfilling that part of it. This will go into the evaluation and your comments will be useful for that process.
The last thing I wanted to ask you is if you had your wishes, what you would like to see work that you think are better off or addition to the good work that has already been done. What would you like to see? It could be anything, materials, hours or evaluation or whatever your perspective is.
Person: I would like to push for more hours and at the same time individual plans for each child. Like maybe set plans or goals. And within the first three months she will learn how to count to twenty in Dakota. Just individual plans on what she will learn on that short amount of time. I know that would take a lot of time for the teachers to put that together. But it would be really nice to have individual plans like that and have the materials sent home so it can be reinforced at home. And after the due date or whatever date that is set do a test and see if she was able to learn it like they were hoping. And adjust her plan from here on out. That is just at the top of my head, I don’t know.
John: Are you happy where your child is at?
Person: Yeah, I am just really proud of her. And it has opened up a lot; it has changed my way of thinking for her. It is good to see her talking in Dakota. Eventually I know when she gets older she will hopefully learn the difference between the dialects.
So I guess that is another goal I would like to see is eventually having what I learned there probably later down the road.
Yeah I had exposure to Lakota like maybe under a year living in Rosebud, but I wasn’t even exposed the language until I was in high school.
John: Okay that will put an end to our interview. I want to thank you so much for your time.