On the Omaha Native American reservation in northeastern Nebraska, one educator is working hard to keep the tribal language alive by helping kids to learn it in school.
Vida Woodhull Stabler is the director of the Omaha (or “Umonhon” in the tribe’s language) culture center at Umonhon Nation Public Schools in Macy, Nebraska. She has been working for the past 18 years to painstakingly gather, record and pass on the cultural knowledge of tribal elders for future generations. Alongside other elders in the community, she has helped to developed a curriculum and lesson plans for Umonhon language classes, as well as other ways to infuse students’ day-to-day school experience with culturally relevant learnings, such as tribal songs and dance.
But she and her colleagues face an uphill battle: Only about a dozen Umonhon tribe members are believed to speak the language fluently today, Stabler told HuffPost.
“It is important for children” to learn the Umonhon language, Stabler told HuffPost. “I truly believe this: There is an innate need, want and love of our culture inside of them. They will become stronger as human beings when they know who they are, and can stand firm and strong against all the challenges that life will throw at them.”
Kyleigh Merrick, 15, who has attended Umonhon Nation schools since kindergarten, has chosen Umonhon language as an elective class.
“I hope to become one of the fluent speakers,” Merrick told HuffPost. “To me it is really important for everyone to learn the language and to teach our kids, because there aren’t that many fluent speakers. If I can become a fluent speaker, I can teach everyone else and help the language not die.”
Read more: Huffington Post