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OneNet Distance Learning Services Help Choctaw Nation Revitalize a Dying Language

Organizations—large and small—depend on OneNet for mission-critical technology needs that help them achieve their organizational goals and make a difference in communities across Oklahoma. One of those organizations is the School of Choctaw Language. The school’s goal is to revitalize the Choctaw language into the flourishing language it once was. The school’s partnership with OneNet is an example of how organizations can leverage OneNet services to ensure the success of our state and even change the course of history for thousands of Oklahomans.

While the Choctaw language is still mostly intact, the number of speakers has diminished greatly since the late 1800s when Indian boarding schools, ran by people of European decent, were established. At these schools, students were encouraged to abandon their native language and take up English as their prominent language.

Without the everyday practice of a second language, speakers will slowly lose their language skills. Over time, the language could dissipate. Since the installation of the boarding schools, Native American tribes have faced this struggle. The Choctaw Nation, with the help of OneNet, is trying to combat this problem.

Choctaw Language Teacher

“Because of our partnership with OneNet, we are able to revitalize the Choctaw language and teach it to young, old, tribal and non-tribal people,” said J.T. Wallace, School of Choctaw Language technology coordinator.

The initial efforts of revitalizing the language began in 1995 with beginner classes created to teach children. By 1998, the program had evolved to include community classes for adults. In 2003, the need for a school became apparent, and the doors opened to Chahta Anumpa Aiikhvna or the School of Choctaw Language.

Since then, the school has grown to serving nearly 1,900 students on a weekly basis and has developed curriculum for all levels to reach as many students as possible. Additionally 7,300 community members are receiving the Choctaw language “Word of the Day” emails.

“We currently have 15 state-certified Choctaw language teachers and four tribal-certified teachers,” Wallace said.

The lack of teachers is a challenge that OneNet is able to help the school overcome. The school now uses OneNet’s distance learning services for broadcasting their classes to Oklahoma high schools. There are currently 32 schools with 66 classes broadcasted to Oklahoma high schools for a world language credit.

“OneNet not only provides us with the bandwidth and videoconferencing services we need to make this possible, but they also provide a content server where we are able to store our lectures for our website,” Wallace said.

In addition to the partnerships with the high schools, the School of Choctaw Language has a partnership with Southeastern Oklahoma State University, in Durant, to offer a minor in the Choctaw language, an 18-credit-hour program. The Choctaw language was the first tribal language to carry the world language credit in public schools and at the collegiate level.

Additionally, the school has developed and published several books on the language including a definer, a history book and children’s books, as well as a holiday CD and several traditional hymn CDs. These resources are available through their website or at their campus bookstore.

With the help of OneNet, the School of Choctaw Language is able to teach Oklahomans across the state the Choctaw language at all levels. They are able to make classes accessible through various means to reach the broadest audience possible to grow their language into the flourishing language it once was.

For more information on the School of Choctaw Language, please visit choctawschool.com.

~Story by Katie Kastl, OneNet Outreach Intern, Spring 2014

1 Comment

  1. Dan Moore on April 7, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Halito!

    Great Story Katie!

    We tell our instructors at Southeastern that even though we can’t clone them (yet), our interactive video classrooms combined with Onenet’s distance learning and research network allows them to be in several places at once! This allows us to be efficient with state resources and at the same time expand educational opportunities beyond traditional geographical boundaries.

    The Choctaw Nation’s language program has been highly successful on our campus and we are grateful for the partnership with the Choctaw Nation and for their innovative delivery methods that enhance higher education.

    Dan Moore

    P.S. Check out these online resources that tell the amazing story of the Choctaw Nation’s Code Talkers of WWI: http://www.choctawnation.com/history/people/code-talkers/

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