Preserving Yakama tribal language from extinction a priority for local educators

When she teaches Sahaptin, HollyAnna CougarTracks DeCoteau Littlebull often holds a stuffed animal to illustrate her lessons. When she talks about Bigfoot, she holds two.

She says “big” in Sahaptin, lifting the large version, and students repeat in response. She says “foot” in Sahaptin, lifting the smaller version, and they repeat that. The younger the students, the more enthusiastic their response.

“It’s so much fun. You can hear them all the way down the hall,” said Littlebull, who teaches the Yakama dialect of Sahaptin (Ichishkíin), the language of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.

Littlebull, who also taught Sahaptin in the Mt. Adams School District last school year, is creating a series of activity and coloring books for learning Sahaptin. She also illustrates the books, and will present a copy of her first book to the Yakama Tribal Council and the Mt. Adams School District later this month.

“I’m probably going to have enough for a dozen books,” said Littlebull, who’s also writing and illustrating a graphic novel and a related animated cartoon, both completely in Sahaptin.

Read more: Yakima Herald

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