Conversational Hopi to be taught in Tuba City

2003-09-13T22:00:00Z Conversational Hopi to be taught in Tuba CityBy ROSANDA SUETOPKA THAYER
Special to the Sun
Arizona Daily Sun
September 13, 2003 10:00 pm  • 

It has taken years to get the local village support and community interest past political obstacles to support Tuba City High School and Tuba City Junior High School students' interest in establishing a Hopi language program that will use everyday Hopi conversation as its basic foundation.

But now classes are set to begin in the spring of 2004.

Many factors in just this past year have propelled the Hopi Lavayi program at Tuba City High-Junior High forward, including the comprehensive study done by the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office on Hopi language and fluency in 1998 that assessed language loss in all 12 Hopi villages.

This Hopi language survey addresses what linquists term as "language shift," which means the replacement of one language (usually the native or first language) with another language (usually the dominant one). For example, language shift is occurring in the gradual replacement of Hopi by English. Language shift also occurs as a result of pressure from outside of the community.

In native communities, language shift can be attributed largely to these outside pressures. Until the 1960s, suppression of native languages was policy in schools controlled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Christian denominations. The Hopi Language Survey provides compelling testimony to the significance of this policy. When asked what language they spoke most often upon entering school, several individuals surveyed answered that they spoke English. They explained that they were punished, sometimes, physically for speaking Hopi. This experience fostered an English-only attitude among Hopis who are now parents of school-age children. This along with the influence of radio, popular music and television-movies have placed increased emphasis on English for native students.

The Hopi survey, along with facilitation provided by Tuba City High Principal Adelbert Goldtooth, TC District Associate Superintendent Dr. Harold G. Begay and TC District Office of Public Relations Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, and the relentless efforts of Marvin Lalo, director of the Hopi Lavayi Project at the Hopi Tribe, as well as recent administrative support from Hopi Tribal Chairman Wayne Taylor's office, will now bring Hopi language classes to its Hopi student population in the Tuba City District.

The interest in Hopi language for Tuba City Junior-Senior High students has been also been heightened in the past year because of additional local Hopi village moral support. It came directly from Upper Mungapi's governor, Alene Garcia, lieutenant governor, Yvonne Hoosava, and their current board of directors, which includes Danny Humetewa Sr., Robert Sakiestewa Jr., Henry Seweyestewa, Florence Albert, Wilfred Moore, Ethel Gilbert, Alden Seweyestewa and Wayne Kuwanhyoima.

The Village of Upper Mungapi's Board of Directors passed a unanimous vote on a resolution of village endorsement for their children earlier this year, thus making the village and school partnership to a solid reality.

Along with the language classes for students at Tuba City High and TC Junior High, the village is discussing possible classes for their own village community members that could be conducted at their own village level under their own village direction.

In the first of what will be a series of meetings held at Tuba City High School, representatives from the Office of Cultural Preservation-Hopi Tribe, Lavayi Project, TCUSD and Hopi High School met on Aug. 28 to begin collaborative discussions.

These representatives looked at several options on approaches for implementation of the Hopi Lavayi language program that will be offered at Tuba City High-Junior High this coming semester.

In the past, Tuba City District has only offered the Navajo and Spanish language as the "foreign" language options, but with an all time record high number of Hopi students currently attending Tuba City District schools which has been in the past traditionally a predominantly Navajo population, Hopi students and parents have expressed their desire to have the Hopi language offered for their junior-high school language choice.

Hopi language classes will now become a reality through the supportive administrative efforts of Dr. Harold Begay, TC's Associate Superintendent, who is a fluent Navajo speaker and Dr. Hector Tahu, TC Superintendent who is a full-blood Maori from New Zealand who both firmly believe "that a quality education also means equity in accessing culturally appropriate as well as rigorous academic choices for their students."

The work that needs to be completed before spring will be development of age-appropriate materials for the language classes of junior high- and high school-caliber. There will also be the need to find an appropriately accredited high school teacher who is a fluent Hopi speaker.

Tuba City High School and Junior High would like to take a different approach than Hopi High by finding a qualified, certified fluent Hopi speaking teacher that does all of the actual classroom teaching.

Though Hopi High School, located at Keams Canyon on the Hopi resesrvation, currently offers a Hopi language class for its junior high and high school-aged students, they do not have an accredited teacher who is a fluent Hopi speaker.

They have chosen instead to have a certified teacher who provides classroom oversight partnerned with a fully fluent Hopi speaking teachers aide who does the actual language teaching and is in the classroom the entire classroom period.

For more information about the proposed Hopi language classes that will be offered at Tuba City Junior High and Tuba City High School in Spring 2004, please call Adelbert Goldtooth at (928) 283-1047 or the Tuba City District Office of Public Relations at (928) 283-1072.

— Arizona Daily Sun

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