Myriad opportunities to learn Chinuk Wawa

10.01.2012 Ron Karten Culture, Education

By Kathy Cole

Cultural Resources Programs manager

There are many opportunities to learn Chinuk Wawa in the Grand Ronde, Portland and Eugene areas.

The language is part of our culture and part of what defines our identity. The efforts to keep the language alive are ongoing thanks to a handful of people. We would like to increase the number of people who are able to speak the language and keep it alive, which is why classes are available in these three major areas and many different types of classes are taught with the chance to take the class for credit.

The Grand Ronde Reservation was established by presidential executive order in 1857. The Reservation was established for more than 30 different bands of Tribal people and many different dialects were spoken within those different bands.

The only language these Tribes had in common was Chinuk jargon. It was the custom of these people not to marry within their Tribe and so many inner-Tribal marriages occurred. The children of these marriages grew up speaking Chinuk Wawa as their first language.

In the early 1870s, there was a real educational push by the federal government and children were sent to boarding schools. By the 1880s, the Native language was being removed from the curriculum. After a time, the children were punished for speaking Chinuk.

The language suffered, but some of the language was still spoken at home. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of the Grand Ronde Elders held classes and worked hard to revive the language. The work is still ongoing and our hope is to bring it back stronger than ever.

The first-year class is held in Grand Ronde and taught by Kathy Cole from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. You can either take this class for fun or take it for credit through Lane Community College. The class is held in the Adult Education Room 126 on Monday and Room 207 on Wednesday.

The second-year class is also taught 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday by Henry Zenk in the Adult Education building. On Wednesdays, the class taught by Zenk is broadcast from the Portland office to Grand Ronde, again from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

There are two classes of Chinuk Wawa offered in the Eugene area. The first- and second-year classes are held at Lane Community College from 5 to 6:50 p.m. Monday and Wednesday in the Longhouse.

The first-year class is taught by Janne Underriner and the second-year class is facilitated by Beth Sheppard and broadcast to Zenk.

Another chance to take Chinuk Wawa is from 2 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Eugene Tribal office and the class is taught by Justin Robinson. His class is more informal and can be taken for fun or he can tutor those who are taking the Lane Community College class.

There are more chances to take Chinuk Wawa in Portland. Eric Bernando teaches a class at the Portland office from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. He also can help tutor students in the Portland office who are taking the class for credit.

The class in Grand Ronde and Eugene associated with Lane Community College started on Monday, Sept. 24, and follows the college schedule.

If you have any questions, call Kathy Cole at 503-879-2249.