April 27, 2007
Reported by Marty Briggs
The Coushatta Tribal Council is hosting an unveiling ceremony on Friday night in Elton for its brand new Heritage Center. Like its name suggests, the center is part of the council's plan to preserve its heritage and revitalize its language. The tribe is working with members of the McNeese State faculty to bring the Heritage Center from development to construction.
When opened, the 10,000 square foot center, located directly across from the Coushatta tribe's community center, will include a theatre, interactive areas and video displays that will tell the coushatta story, as well as house a collection of language and history materials. "We want to go in a positive direction within the tribe, and I feel like this is a positive step to preserve our culture and our language," says tribe Vice Chairman Verlis Williams. "This is a very important step. It's their heritage center, and them taking the step to document and preserve and revitalize their own language, develop their own program and archives and library," says Dr. Linda Langley, a research professor in anthropology at McNeese. Langley has recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support the Coushatta tribe's attempt to revitalize the Koasati language. "Language is what makes us who we are. Without language, people lose their identity as a people," says Langley. "Its very important, not only to me but the entire council that we preserve our language because maybe in the next one or two generations, it will be completely gone," says Coushatta tribal chairman Kevin Sickey. "It's nothing to be ashamed about. It's a beautiful thing to speak your own language and it's my hope our children will carry on our beautiful language," says tribal council member David Sickey.
Some of the teaching materials being developed are books, tapes, computer games and talking audio dictionary. "This is something that is much more than just an academic project. This is really at the heart and soul of these people of these community," says Dr. Langley.
Dr. Langley says the tribe will be able to implement Koasati language classes in the community, online and eventually in the local schools, as well as language fairs and summer language immersion camps in Koasati.
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