Roger Jacob

Sahaptin/Íchishkin Being Taught at UO

Íchishkin is the native language of the Columbia River Basin Plateau region in eastern Oregon and Washington states. Íchishkin, or Sahaptin as termed by linguists, is an extremely endangered language spoken fluently by a relatively small amount of elders of Yakama, Umatilla, and Warm Springs Indian Reservations.

This past fall quarter was the third time first quarter Íchishkin has been taught at the University of Oregon. Second quarter Íchishkin will be taught, and in the Spring third quarter Íchishkin will be taught. Students who successfully complete the first year of Íchishkin are eligible to enroll in 2nd year Íchishkin courses. Students who successfully complete two years of Íchishkin language at the University of Oregon fulfill their language requirement for a bachelor’s degree.

Fall quarter Íchishkin was taught by Roger Jacob, a recent graduate of the University of Oregon’s Language Teaching Program. Roger is from the Yakama Reservation, and at the conclusion of this school year will return home to teach. Roger’s teaching is inspired and directed by Yakama elder and University of Oregon doctoral student, Virginia Beavert. Northwest Indian Language Institute employees, Dr. Joana Worth Jansen and Regan Anderson are invaluable contributors to the teaching and development of materials for the Íchishkin courses.

Shayleen Macy (Wasco/Warm Springs), Jade Martinez (Klamath), Cassie George (Suquamish), and Jarrod McClung (Colville) successfully completed first quarter Íchishkin this fall. Students learned how to introduce themselves and their family members. They can talk and write about their, or a family member’s, daily routine using proper tense/aspect. As part of their final project for the course, students created 20 powerpoint slides apiece based on a singular theme. The four themes chosen include cooking, cleaning, taking care of the dog, and basketball. Each slide has a picture of an action related to the given theme, the Íchishkin word for the action, and an Íchishkin sentence briefly describing the action in the picture using the featured action word (verb). The students’ final projects will be shared with language teachers on the Yakama Reservation to assist in teaching and learning Íchishkin.

The highlight of the quarter was when the students performed a legend about Páxkyuut, Twítashyay, ku Álakw’atyaayama (Union Gap, legendary grizzly, and legendary frogs). The students performed this legend at Virginia Beavert’s 90th birthday bash held at the U of O Longhouse on the last day of November. We are looking forward to learning and teaching Íchishkin and celebrating more birthdays with Virginia for many years to come.

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