Umatilla Tribes: Preserving our Native languages

Ed. Note: The following was written in response to an undated editorial that appeared on the Oregon Magazine website. The tribe attempted to contact the magazine but was unsuccessful.

I write in response to an Oregon Magazine website editorial that was forwarded to me recently. I realize you will likely not print my response on your website, but I feel compelled to respond anyway. I also feel the need to boycott Shilo Inns, which appears to be your website�s flagship sponsor.

The editorial appears to be several years old because it discusses a bill that was making its way through the Oregon Legislature and mentions testimony that was given then by some of our Tribal elders.

I was disturbed by your ignorant, and somewhat racist, attitude towards our desire to preserve and teach our native languages to our Tribal citizens. I was angered by the way you degraded our

Tribal people. It�s sad that you feel the need to publicly ridicule and belittle an elderly woman. Our elders were testifying in favor of a bill that would provide us one more tool for preserving what remains of our nearly extinct languages. She and others have given endlessly in their fight to save what�s left of our native language and degrading her like that was unwarranted. Language is a cornerstone of all cultures. It is the thread that binds people together, preserves traditions and carries a culture into the next generation. Over the past 200 hundred years, hundreds of native languages have been lost and dozens more are at risk every day.

Nearly all of our Tribal citizens now grow up with English as their primary language. They are educated in the public school system and some go on to pursue higher education. Our Tribal governments have done much in recent years to advance the local and regional economies.

Despite all this, you seem to be threatened by our efforts to preserve and teach our culture among ourselves.

Within our small tribe, only a handful of fluent speakers remain with us. This is why it is so important for us to take every opportunity to teach the languages to our children.

We are doing no harm to American society by speaking our languages and teaching our children this essential part of their heritage. We are simply trying to keep our culture alive and pass along our language and traditions to the next generation.

I ask you to reconsider your attitude towards our efforts to preserve our native languages, because if you have children and grandchildren, I suspect that you, too, are teaching them your language, traditions, and heritage.

Antone Minthorn
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Relevant Links:
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation - http://www.umatilla.nsn.us

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