Talk of the Tribe. (Innovators)

By Patterson, Caroline | Sunset, July 2002 | Go to article overview

Talk of the Tribe. (Innovators)


Patterson, Caroline, Sunset


DARRELL ROBES KIPP KEEPS BLACKFOOT LANGUAGE ALIVE. In Browning, Montana, heart of the 1.5 million acres of rolling prairies and jagged Rocky Mountains that make up the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, you can hear Blackfeet kids referring to computers as asinakisto ("words in front of you"). For Darrell Robes Kipp, this is a great thing: Native words for contemporary objects like computers, yogurt, and Nintendo mean the language is changing to reflect the culture--that it's very much alive. Too often the story of Montana's Blackfeet has been one of unemployment, poverty, and despair. But today there's a resurgence of interest in Blackfoot culture and history, in the language itself, that's revitalizing the tribes. Part of a statewide effort to preserve all 11 of Montana's Native American languages, the Blackfeet are once again hearing their children speak Piegan--the language of the Blackfoot Confederacy's North Peigan, Blood, Siksika, and Blackfeet tribes. "It makes a lot of people proud to see the children at the school giving the opening prayers at ceremonies or celebrations," says Earl Old Person, chief and chairman of the Blackfeet tribe. "The children want to show that they can take part, that they can be called upon." Kipp, a Harvard-educated tribal appellate court judge, formed the Piegan Institute in 1985 to research, promote, and preserve the Blackfoot language--and no less than Old Person has credited his work with sparking the renewed interest in the tribal culture. …

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