Coushatta Tribe strives to revive native language

Coushatta language
Published: Apr. 22, 2012 at 10:02 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2012 at 10:07 PM CDT
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For children growing up on the Coushatta Indian reservation, the history of their tribe is something many of their parents take pride in teaching them.

The Koasati language of the Coushatta Indians has been a part of their culture for decades. But in recent years, it's disappeared, dissolved, English now the popular language on the reservation.

Tribal leaders are trying to change that through new language classes that are aimed at preserving Koasati.

"We feel like the Coushatta language, which we're starting to lose people speaking it all the time, there's more English spoken here and also since we are a small tribe, people go outside the tribe to marry, and when their spouses come back, most of them can't speak our language," said Bertney Langley, Heritage director on the reservation. "So most people in their families speak English."

Langley and other tribe elders joined together five years ago in efforts to protect Koasati. Prior to then, the language had never been written down. The elders chose the English alphabet to transcribe Koasati in hopes of making the learning process easier.

"We just want to get the kids at least to start talking to each other in Koasati," said Langley. "It may not be very much, but we just want them to start thinking about their language, thinking this is part of their culture because if we lose the language, our older people used to tell us that we should not consider ourselves as Indian people."

The tribe recently began holding classes, taught by Langley and other elders. The Koasati classes use books written and illustrated by members of the tribe.

"If we can continue the language, we won't lose our heritage or history or you know like stories that we were told from the past," said Langley. "I'm glad to see some of these young people take a real interest in learning the language again."

Tribe members know teaching the Koasati language won't be an easy task, but for members like Langley, the idea of a new language is old territory.

"When I started school, I didn't know any English and everything was spoken in Koasati," said Langley. "It kind of opened a different world when I learned English. So I figured now that people in the tribe are speaking more English, they don't know Koasati. They learn Koasati, it'll open another world for them to look at see what we are about."

If the language classes ever need any funding, the tribe will use the proceeds from their hydroponic greenhouses to support the classes. For more information on the hydroponic vegetables click here.

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