Tunica-Biloxi tribe receives grant for language preservation

View KALB coverage of the grant for language preservation.

MARKSVILLE, La. (KALB) – The sounds of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe have been preserved for hundreds of years and are now slipping through the cracks with each generation.

The Marksville-based Native American tribe has spent decades creating and providing resources and programs to help keep their language and culture alive.

Before partnering with Tulane University in 2010, the language was passed down by Tunica families. But now, the tribe is in need of some help.

After applying for a grant from the federally-funded Administration for Native Americans several times in the past, the tribe finally received some good news.

“We applied for it several times and this time we were awarded the grant,” said John Barbry, Director of Development & Programming for Tunica-Biloxi Tribe’s Language & Culture Revitalization Program. “Basically the grant is funding five full-time adult students; we’re calling them apprentices.”

Nearly $750 thousand are now available for the revitalization efforts of the Tunica. Five people will be trained to write and speak the Tunica language.

This also provides a way for the tribal base in Marksville to make sure the language is being spread to members in other states like Texas and Illinois.

“By training new instructors, hopefully from those outer communities, they’re able to go back to their community after the three-year grant and create a language nest and teach,” said Barbry. “They’ll be a local resource for learning the Tunica language and culture.”

It’s a language that is more than just a skill to the Tunica people. Language instructor Donna Pierite said that it is “a gift.”