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Tribe focuses on preservation of Apache language

Posted: Wednesday, Nov 9th, 2011

Peridot — The new San Carlos Apache Tribe’s Language Preservation Program Director, Beatrice Harney Lee, was recently hired to oversee the reimplementation of preserving the Apache language among the people of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation which is comprised of over 14,000 tribal members residing within the districts of Bylas, Gilson Wash, Peridot and Seven Mile Wash.

“Shi Tu’giannshliigo, K’ainchiibanishi tii, Shi Chohastii Haiayehnlii, Shinale Goonnlii,” Ms. Lee eloquently says her native Apache language.

“Nnee/Ndee Bi Yati Baa Na’isid.”

“In the English term, I just said I am born into the White Water Clan and born for the Reddened Willows People. My maternal grandfather was from the Rising Sun People from the San Carlos Apache People and my paternal grandfather was from the Mohave People from Fort McDowell, Ariz.

“I was born and raised in the Peridot District all of my life and I attended Peridot Mission School. I went on to the East Fork Lutheran High School in Whiteriver, Ariz. For a while, I was like any other young adult. I wanted to explore the world.

“I attended Phoenix College Dine College, then received my Associate of Arts Degree from Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz.

“While living among the Navajo people in Window Rock, Ariz., I started my career in education. It was difficult for a while. But I was dedicated and committed and had the support of my family which helped me a lot.

“It was indeed a challenge and the one thing that caught my eye in education while employed with the Window Rock Unified School District was the Language and Culture Class.”

“I was an instructor from kindergarten to the sixth grade for the Language and Culture Class. Much to my surprise, I was able to learn and speak part of the Navajo Language and able to teach the Navajo language.”

“My desire was that someday I would come back and teach my people the Apache language to the young children. With this in mind, I continued my education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.”

“I received my degree in Elementary Education and I became a certified Adult Education Instructor as well.”

“Early Childhood Education was important in our household because we had a teacher within my family. The memories of the late Bernice Jordan Harney immensely encouraged me to pursue such an education. She was my idol. She was my teacher. She was my friend. And most importantly, she was my mother.”

“I was so proud of her when she completed her Associate of Arts Degree with the Gila Pueblo College.”

“Because of her, I continued on with my education as she had set a great example for us all. She proved that education can achieved through hard work and commitment and that if there is a desire to teach the young children the importance of education, it can be done. She did so through the tribe’s Head Start Program.”

“With that in mind, I developed a strong desire to teach the Apache language. It was also my desire to become a Head Start teacher someday. I went beyond that and taught in Elementary School and worked for a non-profit organization as an Adult Education Instructor.”

“My passion for education brought me back to my people and I am now the new Director for the tribe’s Apache Language Preservation Program. It is a fairly new program that started over four years ago. It wasn’t moving forward due to funding.”

“People have asked me, just what is the Language Preservation Program? It literally means to prevent our Apache language from becoming extinct.”

“However, this can only happen when a language is no longer taught to younger generations and the elderly people who do speak the language fluently, pass away from us. Language is an important and integral part of any society because it enables the people to communicate and express themselves.”

“When a language dies, future generations lose a vital part of the culture that is necessary to completely understand it. If languages are to be preserved today, it will require the whole community to participate.”

“The re-education of the Apache language is an integral part of knowing who we are – it is our identity. Why is our language important? Because it defines a culture through the people who speak it and what it allows the speakers to say.”

“Words that describe a particular cultural practice or idea may not translate precisely into another language. Many endangered languages have rich oral cultural with stories, songs and histories passed on to younger generations, but not in written forms.”

“With the extinction of a language, an entire culture is lost. Knowing the Apache language has given me the opportunity to explore my identity, come into contact with the elders and gain a pride in learning to communicate.”

“This is what we as parents should teach our children. I am looking forward in working with the community. The program itself will be working closely with the Early Childhood Program, the Head Start Program and the Apache Kidd Child Care Program.”

“As a Director, I will be responsible to create curriculum for these programs and there is a lot of work that needs to be completed by creating the curriculum. If you would like to share any materials to help build the curriculum, come by the office and share your work. We are located at the Peridot Shopping Center near the Bashas Store.”

“Preservation of our Apache language is for our children of tomorrow, passing on the generation to the next generation.”

“The tribe had applied for the $62,539.00 grant from First Things First an since the application had not been thoroughly completed in the past two years, it was at a stand still. When I was informed about this, I immediately started working on this and did complete the paperwork necessary to turn in the application. I worked with the Planning Department during this process.”

“I am happy to announce that the tribe will be awarded $62,539.00 for the Apache Language Preservation Program. With this grant award, the Apache Language Preservation Program will hire two individuals and complete the curriculum.”

“If you are interested in helping with the curriculum and help build our program, please don’t hesitate to come by and share your work. This is your program and you are more than welcome to come and visit with us. We can be reached by telephone at (928) 475-5060.”

“Ahiyi’ee which means thank you,” concludes Beatrice Lee, the new Director for the Apache Language Preservation Program for the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

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