HANNAHVILLE - The Hannahville Indian Community's Department of Culture, Language and History will be hosting its summer language immersion camps again at the Potawatomi Heritage Center from June to August, according to organizers.
Potawatomi Language Coordinator Dawn Hill, from the Department of Culture, Language and History at Hannahville's Potawatomi Heritage Center, said the summer language immersion program is made possible through a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans.
The Hannahville Indian Community has received funding for its ANA project "Ewikkendaswat Ekenomagewat" - translated as "They Will Learn to Teach." The project focuses on providing language instructor skills training during the school year and summer language immersion camps to increase listening and speaking fluency of the Potawatomi language.
"They're the only federal grant that provides enough resources for you to really build a substantial program," explained Hill. "They're highly competitive as well. We've been fortunate, as we've had two multi-year grants in a row."
Their current grant began in 2009 and lasts until September 2012. The ANA receives close to 500 grant applications each year, but only 10 or 11 projects are funded.
One of the main goals through the grant and summer language immersion program is to carry on the use of the Potawatomi language, since only 23 speakers from the Potawatomi's nine bands were fluent in the language in 2004 - most of whom were elderly.
"A lot of people realize that if we do not take it from the fluent speakers now, it won't survive for the future if it's going to be a living language again," said Hill.
The summer language immersion program is now in its third year and has grown exponentially.
"During the first summer ... we had people from Canada that were here," said Hill. "We figured it would just be mostly the local community, but we had people from the different bands that came from Kansas and Oklahoma and downstate, so we had a lot more people than what we ever anticipated."
The program will be offered during three different weeks this summer: from June 11-15, July 9-13, and Aug. 13-17 at the Potawatomi Heritage Center.
Two fluent speakers of the language will be on hand to work with program participants.
Hill said participants spend a lot of time with the language during the week-long program.
"This summer it's going to be even a little bit more intense in the mornings because the participants will be doing a lot of the work for the speakers in preparation," she said. This will include preparing text, conversations and stories. The speakers will then go over the material with participants.
"The afternoons we've usually spent doing activities that have compelled the participants to utilize the language," said Hill. Participants will be broken up into groups based on their learning ability to participate in activities, such as listening and responding to commands.
One example is a role-playing activity done in the past, where participants pretended like they were in a restaurant and had to order food from a menu in the language.
"Everybody had an opportunity to be either the person that was ordering or the waiter that was asking what they wanted to eat," she explained. "There you are placed in a position where you're being compelled to speak the language."
Another activity had participants negotiate prices for grocery store items.
The summer language immersion programs typically last between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the week. Breakfast and lunch are included.
This year there is a $30 fee to help defray the cost of breakfast and lunch.
The Hannahville Indian Community received its first three-year grant through an ANA technology grant from 2006-2009.
"What that did was allow us to really get our roots down in the school," said Hill, as the grant helped them implement language classes for students every single day from grades K-12. This helped them build a curriculum to teach the language.
They were also able to create a website, language labs in the classrooms and an online course complying with language content standards.
The grant also covered qualifying language instructors to ensure they have the skills required in the classroom, and for inter-generational events - where instructors plan events for the community involving the language.
Hill explained that the Michigan Merit Curriculum, passed in 2006, requires students - beginning with the graduating class of 2016 - to graduate with two credits in a world language.
At the time there were concerns about how this might impact Hannahville's efforts to revive the Potawatomi language.
However, in 2010, the state passed legislation that any Native American languages in Michigan would be considered a world language and students could receive the same credit as they could for more commonly taught languages like Spanish, French or German.
Additionally, students could take an online Potawatomi language course to receive credit for their required online learning experience through the curriculum.
There is the potential for students in other districts to take the online course and receive credit for both their online experience and world language requirements.
Looking toward the future, Hill said the next goal is for them to focus on spending more time with families and children, since children are bringing the language back home to share with their families. They are also hoping to create smartphone apps so students can download them for learning purposes.
"It's really exciting to realize we've come so far. Only because of the substantial funding through ANA have we been able to have the funds to be able to produce and design the programs that we have," said Hill.
For more information on the summer language immersion program, contact Hannahville's Department of Culture, Language and History at (906) 723-2272.