COVID-19 Update from the Yuchi House
by h@lA Turning Heart
f’as@^ anzAsala! yUdjEhalA asOgwa: abAhû k’agOyUnA wahalA TahOthla l@dA gOh@nTOnA wAanzAky@hanô! Ôk’ajU PAhA Ônô!
(Greetings to you all in the Yuchi language – in these days of COVID-19 may the Ruler of Breath watch over you. Together we shall overcome!)
While our Yuchi Language Project classes and offices have been closed for weeks, we continue speaking and learning the Yuchi language because it is vital to who we are. Our language revitalization work has always been 24/7 and the COVID-19 pandemic has only clarified the importance of retaining our Indigenous languages, cultures, and ecosystems. In these challenging times, we see that the Yuchi language is a source of wellness and healing for our community. Yuchi is a language isolate which means it embodies eons of tradition, history, and a unique perspective on the world.
The current world crisis has reminded our Yuchi people to focus on what is essential, valuable, and natural. While it is no longer safe to shop in grocery stores, we have planted a garden to begin raising our traditional foods. While the City has stopped mowing parks, we welcome back the butterflies and wildflowers. While we once took for granted our ability to gather together, we look to the wisdom of our elders to know how to safely fulfill this year’s ‘EaPAnA (Green Corn Ceremonies).
We are adapting to the closure of our classrooms by implementing distance learning options for our students and staff. For example, we are using Zoom to hold virtual classes, listening to old Yuchi recordings via SoundCloud, making total physical response language videos online, Kahoot language quizzes, Quizlet online flash cards, and audiobooks using the My Story App. We are also taking advantage of having more time to work on bigger curriculum development projects that will have a lasting impact on the life of the language across our Yuchi community.
We are thankful for these online learning platforms however we are seeing the limitations of relying on technology to revitalize our language. We are reminded that the language is best learned breath-to-breath in the home as it was passed down for thousands of years. Instead of simply trying to simulate our classes online, we are calling on our committed families to take more ownership of the process through implementing home language nests. Language immersion games, activities, and domains with target phrases are the key to building the language in the home for all generations. For example, families can now designate time to cook together in Yuchi without the rush of their usual schedules to distract them. Yuchi families are homeschooling for the rest of the school year and are now able to incorporate the Yuchi language and values into their students’ curriculum (which was completely absent from the public school curriculum).
Our prayers are with all of the Indigenous families affected by COVID-19, especially those dealing with increased financial stress, health issues, and domestic violence. Our elders taught us that our Indigenous languages contain the wisdom and knowledge we need to address any problems we face in this world. The elders have brought the Yuchi language this far and we are doing our part to carry it into the future. Ôk’ajU TahAê Ôk’âfA (Together, we carry on!)