Tuscarora Elementary School Language Youtube video

Since I grew up on the Tuscarora Nation, I had the opportunity to attend the Tuscarora Elementary School from Pre-K until 6th grade. During this time, I (along with my peers) was able to take language and culture classes taught by Betsy Bissell, Joanne Weinholtz, and Vince Schiffert. The program really helped me to gain an early understanding of the Tuscarora language, its cultural significance, and exposure to other indigenous histories. This schooling background, paired with my home experiences has provided my foundation for rethinking language learning.

After I graduated high school, I then had an opportunity to work with my teachers on various language and cultural projects. In this time, I have had an opportunity to see the work that they continue to do at the school and how they are utilizing various technologies in the classroom. When I went through the program  there was a focus on learning songs, understanding Ganonyok* and basic sentence formation. This teaching took place in the classroom, a few times a week for the entirety of my elementary career.

However, upon my return to my alma mater, I found that videos comparable to Sesame Street are produced and then distributed to new mothers with the intent of introducing new born babies and  young children to the language as soon as possible. Here is an example of the “Animals” video, enjoy!

*Ganonyok is a borrowed term that is used throughout the Haudenosaunee confederacy, meaning the words that come before all else. Or sometimes referred to as the thanksgiving address.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley Smith says:

    “The program really helped me to gain an early understanding of the Tuscarora language, its cultural significance, and exposure to other indigenous histories. This schooling background, paired with my home experiences has provided my foundation for rethinking language learning.”

    I am wondering about your positionality here. How are you -re-thinking language learning as a process? what was your original thinking or the original thinking that you are now rethinking? Why is it necessary to rethink or unthink or dethink? How do we know? And what are the aims for a rethinking? Are you suggesting that your original language learning experience was not sufficient and thus approaches to teaching children in schools needs to be reexamined, reimagined? Or are you suggesting something else?

    What I would also like to see you think about and develop more here is why language? What is important about language specifically? Why do children need to learn Tuscarora (or do they)? What does this suggest about the relationships between being and knowing? Much of the scholarship in this area suggests a slippage and/or a problematic between an overdefining of identity by language (that is, if you are unable to speak a language you cannot belong to that identity – which is troublesome as this leads to complete identity erasure and grants a great deal of power to the effects of colonial forces of assimilation – and could potentially suggest that if you learn a language you can -become- something that many would also find problematic) and an underdefining (which undermines the fight for language revitalization or reinforces english single-language learning standards). Some things to keep in mind here….

  2. Jake says:

    Sesame Street has much better production quality but its cool they are using the language…

    really needs a cookie monster though.

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