Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana Receives $748,200 Grant to Assist with Revitalization of Tunica Language

Posted by Alexia Pierre on September 17, 2018 in News

Funds from the Administration for Native Americans will enable increased training and fluency.

MARKSVILLE, La. –  (Aug 13, 2018) – The Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council recently announced that the Tribe has been awarded a $748,200 grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA). These funds will be dispensed over a three-year period and will support the Language and Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) in training language apprentices to become fluent speakers and instructors of the Tunica language.

 “This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Tribe, our people and our rich culture,” said John Barbry, director of development and programming for the program. “In 2017, the Tunica language was recognized as ‘reawakening’ following years of hard work by our people and linguistic partners. We are extremely grateful to ANA for the support in continuing these efforts.”

Council member Brenda Lintinger reached out to Tulane University’s Linguistics Department, specifically to Dr. Judith Maxwell, back in 2010, to gauge the university’s interest in assisting the tribe to gather decades old research materials and documents.  Lintinger’s theory was that if the materials could be updated and reformatted to make them more easily accessible to tribal members, it would facilitate the rebirth of the Tunica language which had not been spoken fluently since before the death of Sesostrie Youchigant, the last noted speaker of Tunica in the mid-20th century.

“This is a dream transformed into a profound reality,” acknowledged Council Member Lintinger.  “To hear our children speaking Tunica during weekly classes and the summer language camp is something we never thought to experience.  This whole process, working with Tulane and Dr. Maxwell’s team and witnessing our children speak the words of our ancestors, continues to inspire all of us with Kuhpani Yoyani Luhchi Yoroni, the Tunica Language Working Group!  The ANA grant will help us to further the objectives of the project, to bring the Tunica language into the homes of all our tribal families.”

There is still a long road ahead to meet the goals of their 15-year master plan for the language. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe currently has 50 speakers but none that are fluent in the language. The grant will enable training of additional, higher-level speakers and will help to expand their language education efforts into a sustainable program which will focus on tribal youth.

“We believe that in order to build for our future, we must cherish our past,” said Tunica Biloxi Chairman, Marshall Pierite. “By educating Tribal youth on the importance of our traditions, we can bridge the gap between generations and sustain our culture for years to come.”

Tunica language apprentices will participate in language classes, one-on-one instruction, independent study, cultural life-ways workshops, language camps and outreach events in order to earn their certification at the end of the three-year period. Instructors will conduct Tunica language classes for Tribal youth as a way to strengthen their sense of identity and community, generate knowledge of the language and lower the extreme risk factors that affect them.