“As our linguist, Tyler will play a critical role in keeping the language alive and preserving our culture,” said John Barbry, director of development and programing for the Tunica-Biloxi LCRP program. “We are thrilled for Tyler to join our team and to assist with the continued efforts to revitalize our language.”
Whitaker has a master’s degree in Linguistic Anthropology from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Middle Tennessee State University. For the past three years, Whitaker has worked as a Contributing Linguist and Assistant Teacher at the Tunica-Biloxi Language and Culture Camp. Through this role, Whitaker updated and checked for errors in the Tunica language databases and developed games, activities and lesson plans using the language.
“It is an honor to take on this new role and to be a part of this journey of restoring the Tunica language,” said Tyler Whitaker. “I am very excited to apply my passions for anthropology, linguistics and research to continue to help the Tunica community.”
As the program’s linguist, Whitaker will promote the understanding and usage of the Tunica language throughout the Tribe and to the community. Some responsibilities will include developing Tunica language resources, creating lesson plans and implementing cultural activities to promote the learning of the Tunica and Biloxi languages.
Through various programs, classes and activities, the LCRP works to restore the Tunica language and to keep cultural traditions alive. The revitalization of the Tunica language began back in 2010 when council member Brenda Lintinger reached out to Tulane University’s Linguistics Department to gauge the university’s interest in assisting the tribe in gathering decades-old research materials and documents. Since then, the Ethnologue has updated the status of the Tunica language from “dormant” to “reawakened” reflecting ongoing revitalization efforts.
Recently, a grant of $748,200 was awarded to the Tribe by the Administration for Native Americans. The grant will give the Tribe the resources needed to continue their efforts of revitalizing the language by hiring five full-time Tunica language apprentices in addition to Whitaker’s role as linguist.