Giving Compass' Take:

• Isabella Garcia offers some examples of technological innovations and their potential for preserving fading indigenous languages.

• What can you do to preserve essential cultural practices such as indigenous languages? How can technology help in the process?

• Learn more about giving equitably in indigenous communities.

In response to the threat of language loss, some Indigenous tribes are turning towards accessible technology to save and revitalize their languages.

Language revitalization is grounded in education and accessibility; if language resources aren’t available and there are no designated ways to practice that language, how will it continue to be used?

Some tribes, such as the Cherokee Nation and Navajo Nation, have held language courses for several years, but many tribes face barriers to developing language programs of their own. There may not be any remaining elders who speak the language well enough to teach it—the Cherokee and Navajo Nations are the two largest Native American tribes who have retained the most speakers of their languages.

Then even if there is an elder available to teach, they may lack resources to set up structured, systemic language classes. Then, there is the added challenge of accessibility—if the classes take place at a high school on the reservation, how will tribe members living off the reservation access the information?

That’s where technological solutions can help.

When Keegan Livermore, a member of the Yakama Nation, learned that there were only a couple dozen fluent speakers of Ichishkíin—a language in the Sahaptin family spoken by the Yakama, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation—he felt a responsibility to learn the language himself.

While attending a technology panel during a linguistic education workshop, Livermore’s group discussed how language tools could be made more accessible to young people.

“We’ve already had computer keyboards,” Livermore said. “If we’re thinking about how to get teenagers and college students to use it, why not make a phone keyboard?”

Read the full article about indigenous languages and technology by Isabella Garcia at YES! Magazine.