In an effort to re-awaken the Tunica language, the tribe partnered with the Tulane University Linguistics Program in 2010 to start the Tunica Language Project. Tribal representatives, including Brenda Lintinger, Donna Pierite and Elisabeth Pierite Mora, began work with Dr. Judith Maxwell of Tulane and a team of graduate students to bring the language back. Ongoing work on Tunica language resources continues with Tulane through the Kuhpani Yoyani Luhchi Yoroni (Tunica Language Working Group). The Tulane partnership led to creation of the Language & Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) in 2014.
LCRP was created to establish a structural support for language and culture education. It also strives to plant a noticeable presence of the language on the reservation throughout the extended community. The LCRP offices are located in the library at the Cultural & Educational Resources Center (CERC).
LCRP coordinates the following activities:
- On-going Tunica language training
- Development of Tunica language teaching materials
- Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Summer Camp for tribal youth
- Tunica language usage through visual and audible representations in public venues and events in the tribal community
- Interactive web-based mediums to facilitate distance learning
- Research and scholarship on Tunica-Biloxi history and culture
- Cultural workshops on traditional Tunica-Biloxi crafts and lifeways
- Operation of the CERC Library
LCRP facilitates four 8-week series of Tunica language classes each year in the Fall and Spring. Classes are held after school from 4 – 5 p.m. on Tuesdays for ages 5-10 and Wednesdays for ages 11-17. An open house is held at the conclusion of each 8-week series for language learners and their families where language learners are afforded the opportunity to showcase what they learned.
In the live WebEx sessions instructors use Power Point presentations to introduce Tunica words and phrases, engage learners in spoken Tunica language in real time and engage learners in written Tunica language through chat. Recorded sessions allow instructors to record the same lessons in video format so language learners unable to join live classes can view at their leisure. Registration and posting notices are sent out regularly to the tribal community.
Cultural workshops are held periodically throughout the year. Language instructors present a Tunica language component at each workshop as it relates to each cultural tradition. Guest presenters from regional tribal communities are sometimes invited to participate. These workshops provide an opportunity to explore traditions that are both unique and shared by neighboring indigenous communities.
Workshops include heritage crafts and lifeway activities such as:
- Pine needle basketry
- Cane basketry
- Stickball tradition
- Dance and ceremonial regalia making
- Traditional songs and dances
- Pow-wow dancing
Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Summer Camp
Summer language and culture youth camp is held each June for ages 5-17. Daily lessons on the Tunica language are taught using traditional songs, stories and activities that reinforced usage of Tunica words. Each day, students practice speaking and singing the Tunica language. Language is an integral part of all activities. Students also learn pan-tribal pow-wow songs and dances, as well as, dance regalia. With a variety of fun and educational activities, children are kept active, entertained and learning about their heritage.
Tunica Language Immersion Workshop
LCRP staff and Dr. Judith Maxwell of the Tulane University coordinate an annual Tunica language immersion workshop in January. Using a proven teaching model developed by Dr. Maxwell, the four-day workshop concentrates on training that enables participants to learn, speak and understand the Tunica language. The workshop provides a valuable training opportunity for individuals who may serve as instructors and assistant instructors for summer language camps and ongoing language classes. New language learners from the Tunica-Biloxi community are encouraged to attend.
Cultural & Educational Resources Center (CERC) Library
LCRP formally open the CERC Library to the public on July 27, 2015. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The library is non-circulating, requiring patrons to view collections in the library only. As a special library and information center, the collections compliment the Tunica-Biloxi Museum and provide opportunity for more in-depth study and research on Tunica-Biloxi and other southeast indigenous cultures. The library currently contains just over 1,400 titles.
The CERC Library hosts ongoing programs featuring storytelling, music and demonstrations on local history and culture. As part of an early literacy initiative, LCRP has started a series of story time events based on standards from Every Child Ready to Read.
For more information, contact:
Director of Development & Programing
Language & Culture Revitalization Program
150 Melacon Road
Marksville, LA 71351
(800) 272-9767, ext. 6412