Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Culture and Place: A Legacy Darrell Kipp Helped Create

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Culture and Place: A Legacy Darrell Kipp Helped Create

Article excerpt


Darrell Robes Kipp was a Blackfeet elder who was a national leader in the language immersion movement. He co-founded the Piegan Institute, and its schools have become a model for those seeking to preserve and promote their native language. In addition, he served as a Visiting Native American Scholar at Oklahoma State University. In that role, he helped the Adult Education graduate program infuse culture as a natural part of the learning process. From this base, the Adult Education program created a course called Culture and Place and which was taught several times. This course was based on the assumption that culture and place are inseparable and that they reinforce each other. Following campus-based preparation, this course involved students traveling to on-site locations in Montana to interact with local adult educators and to Highlander Research Center in Tennessee. The students found this experience a transformational event in both their education and their lives.

Remembering Darrell Kipp

If every time an elder dies in a cultural community, it's like a library burning down, then on November 21, 2013, the Blackfeet Tribe lost their Library of Congress. For on that day, Darrell Robes Kipp passed away. Kipp was a Blackfeet author, historian, film-maker, and, most importantly, educator. Kipp rose from a humble background on the Blackfeet Reservation to become "a leader in the language preservation movement" (Ogden, 2008, para. 70).

Valuing Education

Kipp's life experiences taught him about the struggle for an education and the value that it can provide. Kipp came from a household where his mother had completed 10th grade and his father had finished 3rd grade. His first 8 years of schooling were in a one-room schoolhouse in a rural community on the Blackfeet Reservation which was 10 miles away from the main reservation community where he completed high school. Although he was not adequately prepared for college, he persevered and earned his bachelor's degree with a major in English in 1966 from Eastern Montana College (Kipp, 2000, p. 2). Following a tour of duty in the military, he returned in 1970 to the Blackfeet Reservation and taught English at Browning High School. However, he did not find this a fulfilling experience; Kipp said, "As a student I was an inmate there, and when they hired me as a teacher, I was essentially a guard" (Ogden, 2008, para. 46). By 1974, Kipp was on his way to Harvard where he graduated with a Masters of Education degree with a focus on social change and institutional change (Kipp, 2000, p. 2). At Harvard, "Kipp came to understand that his people were collectively suffering from something akin to post-traumatic stress syndrome. Language, Kipp believes, has the power to heal those wounds" (Ogden, 2008, para. 31).

Kipp had a passion for learning and focused this on his native language and culture. Along with Dr. Dorothy Still Smoking and Thomas Edward Little Plume, he cofounded the Piegan Institute in 1987. The Piegan Institute is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to researching, promoting, and preserving Native languages. The vision of the Piegan Institute is both local and national where:

Our community-based objectives are to increase the number of Blackfeet language speakers, to increase the cultural knowledge base of community members, and to actively influence positive community-based change. Our national objectives are to promote support for Native language issues through advocacy and education and to provide a voice to the national and international dialogue on Native Language restoration. (Piegan Institute, n.d., para. 3)

Language Immersion Movement

The tool that Kipp and his co-founders used at the Piegan Institute is language immersion. The language immersion model is an educational process that immerses the students in the native language throughout the entire school day. All school subjects are taught in the native language. …

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