NILI has partnered with members and programs of the Yakama Nation since our beginning. Many of our connections have come through leadership of Yakama elder Tuxámshish, Dr, Virginia Beavert [link], who was a part of NILI’s founding and is the reason that the University of Oregon offers Ichishkíin language classes [link to class site] during the regular school year and at Summer Institute. Because of these classes language teachers from Yakama come to the UO to study language teaching. They return home to teach, carrying on Tuxámshish’s work and adapting curriculum developed at UO to meet the needs of their classrooms and students. The UO class travels to the Yakama Nation to build and honor connections, experience the homeland of the language, meet with other learners and speakers, and share language activities.
The Toppenish School District has partnered with NILI on preschool benchmarks, high school curriculum and technology projects at Toppenish and EAGLE/CATS High Schools. We collaborated with the district in our earliest work on culture and language as protective factors, supporting youth to be healthy and strong in their identity. Support for building teachers and documenting the knowledge of the elders has been a core part of projects with the Yakama Nation Language Program and Natural Resources Department.
In working with Virginia Beavert and other elders on documenting, describing and teaching the Yakama Ichishkiin language, we integrate language documentation, curriculum development, and linguistics and teacher training around a topic of interest to the elders. One example is the work on wák’amu (camas). Students of Ichishkíin language classes and a linguistics seminar, and elders of two Ichishkiin dialects have now worked to document and build curriculum around wák’amu identification, life cycle, gathering, preparation and preservation. The materials generated are used as tools to further document language and processes involving wák’amu.
The Yakama Nation Forestry Products and the Peacekeeper Society honored Tuxámshish, Dr. Virginia Beavert, at the UO Many Nations Longhouse, November 18, 2018.