Tribal chairman John Teller of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin was the Colin Horsfield Memorial Lecturer for Amnesty International Bermuda this past Wednesday. Teller, a professor at the College of the Menominee Nation, addressed the audience on the topic of the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and what it means for Indigenous Peoples across the world. He also discussed the history of the Menominee people and their struggle to revitalize their language.
Teller has devoted his life to language activism and says that one of the goals of the tribe is to establish language immersion programs for tribal school children. Currently, English is spoken about 90% of the time in Menominee schools, but Teller and others hope to change that.
The Royal Gazette quotes Teller in their April 18 article Menominee Spoken Here as saying “…I think we have done a good enough job that the language will go on. Older people come in and act as a resource. Sometimes they are in the classroom to assist the teacher to make sure the students are saying the words correctly. They help us with developing a curriculum.”
Although there are only 12 fluent speakers today, a number of tribal members are working towards fluency, and if the younger generation is able to be reached through language immersion programs there is hope the language will not be lost.
For more information on the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin visit their website here.