Sahaptin Language Class

Yakima Ichishkíin (Sahaptin)

Sahaptin, a Native American language of the Columbia River area of Oregon and Washington, is being taught at the University of Oregon in the 2015-16 school year. Materials have been developed in part by Yakama Elder and UO graduate Dr. Virginia Beavert, highly respected and renowned language activist and scholar.

Yakima and related dialects are still spoken in the region today, in the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian ReservationThe language is critically endangered, and this course adds to language preservation efforts. Students in this class have the opportunity to visit these communities and contribute to the expansion of vital language resource materials.

If taken for two years, the course will satisfy the BA language requirement. The course will also be of interest to students wanting to understand more about Northwest Native history and cultures, or who want an opportunity to study and understand a language radically different from English.

In 2007, the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences proposed the teaching of Sahaptin (Ichishkiin),  at the University of Oregon. This would respect the government-to-government relationship the UO and the State of Oregon have with the Nine Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon and it would support Native and non-Native students at UO, bring an elder to campus and satisfy UO’s language requirement. The class materials and curriculum developed at UO are in a culture place-based model. This ensures learning is culturally authentic, useful to all learners and communities and is grounded in the Ichishkiin speaking people. The class includes trips to Ichishkiin speaking communities; it uses products of documentation projects; it is shared with other Ichishkiin language programs and thus is increasingly developed across teaching levels and contexts; it is influenced by students and created by students.


Ichishkiin language class visit to Yakama Nation, 2015

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