To save their dying language, the Arapaho turn to high-tech apps, old-school flash cards and a new generation

When Marlin Spoonhunter returned to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming after decades working as an educator in Montana, he realized that something crucial, something elemental to his Northern Arapaho identity, had escaped him — the language.

“When I’d hear older people talking, I didn’t know what they were saying,” says Spoonhunter, now president of the Wind River Tribal College in Ethete. “I wanted to know.”

For generations, the tribe has been leaning into cultural headwinds to preserve a language on the brink of extinction. As English gained dominance in daily discourse, fluent Arapaho speakers dwindled to what’s now estimated to be perhaps a few dozen — most of those in their 70s — among the slightly more than 10,000 registered tribal members in Wyoming.

But faced with losing one of its defining elements, a living institution that extends beyond words to a unique way of looking at the world, the tribe has turned to a variety of resources — including a University of Colorado Boulder linguistics professor — with increased urgency to reverse the trend.

It has embraced websites, phone apps and video tutorials along with classroom immersion and personal mentoring to renew a native tongue essential to its culture, religion and worldview.

Read more: The Denver Post

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