Northern Arapaho proclaim and celebrate May 10 as “Salzmann Day”

The Northern Arapaho Language & Culture Commission proclaimed May 10 as “Salzmann Day” in honor of Dr. Zdenek “Denny” Salzmann, the man who developed the Arapaho language orthography. Events, activities, and ceremonies honoring his work took place during Heritage Week at Arapahoe School.

Salzmann’s three daughters, Anne, Linda, and Erica, visited the Wind River Reservation and experienced cultural activities with students, and toured classrooms where their father’s work known as the “Salzmann System” is being used, including Wyoming Indian Schools, Wind River Tribal College, Arapahoe, St. Stephens, and Riverton schools.

A ceremony honoring Salzmann’s daughters was held on Tuesday evening at Arapahoe School, with the “Proclamation Honoring Zdenek Salzmann” read by FCSD #38 Superintendent Roy Brown and the story of Salzmann’s Journey as told by NALCC Chairman William C’Hair.


While working on his dissertation at Indiana University, Dr. Salzmann’s fieldwork in linguistics brought him to the Wind River Reservation in 1949 to write a grammar and in later years, compile the first Dictionary of Contemporary Arapaho Usage, developing a bi-lingual education program for school children. Salzmann was made an honorary chief for his work in preserving the Northern Arapaho language. He passed away on May 10, 2021 at the age of 95.

The NALCC Proclamation states that the “Northern Arapaho Language & Culture Commission is committed to the education and well-being of its children and the principle that our sacred language helps children become successful adults…communication plays a fundamental role in the lives of Our People by helping them define their identity, as it is the key to Our People’s well-being and long-term quality of life…Zdenek Salzmann’s contributions to Our People will forever be utilized for generations to come” and that May 10, Salzmann Day “encourages citizens to recognize the significant impact that he has made in Arapaho language and culture restoration efforts to our future generations.”

Color Guard procession to the Memorial Song accompanied by the Little Brave and Eagle drum groups.
L-R: Commander Martin Blackburn, Stephen Seminole and Glenda Littlebird.
NALCC Chairman William C’Hair relates the story of Salzmann’s Journey, and how he worked with Tribal elders and members in preserving the Arapaho language.

Other speakers of the evening included FCSD #38 Business Manager Teresa HisChase, Dr. Andrew Cowell of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies (CNAIS), and an update on the new Arapaho language app presented by Dr. Francisco Garcia.

Dr. Francisco Garcia gives a preview of a new app being developed that will provide modules and functions for learning the Arapaho language.

The new language app will feature content developed using Articulate Storyline 360, interactions such as drag and drop, sorting, animations, text lessons, and a website platform to share all of the lessons. The approach to the lessons includes a warm-up, practice, and an assessment that will generate a certificate once the lessons are completed.

Arapahoe School student dancers conclude the evening event by honoring Dr. Salzmann.

“We are so grateful to have been invited here for this wonderful day…what brought my dad back here many times over the years was the people here that he really loved,” said Anne Salzmann. “I think that was more important to him, that they need the academic work that he did, working on the language. We didn’t see that in any other aspect of the work he did, he taught, and so on…but there was something about coming up here and working with the people here. So we are just so honored to be here.”


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