(Wind River Reservation, WY) – The Eastern Shoshone Cultural Center was awarded an ANA ARPA grant to create an online audio Shoshone Language Dictionary. Several elders from the tribe, other Shoshone language speakers and community members are convening for a 2-week session with a group of linguistic experts from The Learning Conservancy (TLC) to create a comprehensive dictionary database.
With a dwindling number of fluent speakers, Native Tribes across the country are facing loss of their languages. TLC has developed a word collection method called Rapid Word Collection (RWC) that expedites the overall language documentation process, doing in weeks what used to take years. Most tribes are able to document between 8,000 to 12,000 words in 2 weeks using this method.
During Rapid Word Collection, groups of Indigenous speakers and Elders answer prompts facilitated by the TLC linguists. To maintain Covid-19 safety standards, the linguistic teams connect via Zoom with small groups of 2-3 elders. The completed database is fundamental for future language-learning efforts by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.
During this first week, we are impressed the elders have recorded thousands of words, working seamlessly with the new technology. They are having a good time speaking their native language and prompting each other for words that they might not have spoken for years. Their stamina and level of energy is amazing, and they are enjoying socializing with old and new friends.
The Language Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that supports Indigenous language revitalization by developing programs, materials, and technologies in close partnership with Indigenous communities.