Reclaiming Tribal Languages – Native American Heritage Month

Within many of the Tribal communities in the States and Canada, there is a concerted effort to reclaim Tribal Languages and Cultural Traditions. It was not that long ago that young people were forcibly removed from their homes and tribes, taken to the Indian Boarding Schools, and were taught the ways of the dominant culture in a strict (and sometimes abusive) manner. Some of these young people never made it home. Ironically, while these young people were discouraged from speaking their tribal languages....soldiers from several Native Nations were recruited as "Codetalkers" during World War I and World War II. These soldiers used their unique tribal languages to help the US win wars, and we honor them for their service.

In the past 40 to 50 years, there has been an effort within the Tribal communities to learn languages and traditions, and to pass it down to the future generations. This has taken root in classrooms, and has found its way into books, movies, and even computer games! Even knowing a small amount of your tribal language helps in a better understanding of our traditional ways and beliefs.

Books to Check Out

At San Jose Public Library, we have a small selection of picture books which are written both in English and various Tribal Languages. Some of these Languages include Tsalagi (Cherokee), Anishinaabe (Ojibway/Odawa/Potawatomi), Lakota, Nehiyawewin (Cree), and Dine (Navajo).

We Are Grateful

Bowwow Powwow

We All Play

We Belong to the Drum

Muskrat and Skunk

When We Are Kind

Mii Maanda Ezhi-gkend

Read Along with Native Speakers on YouTube