Artists use their skills to teach Native American languages

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Several Minnesota artists are using their talents to help teach Native American languages

Neil McKay is a tribal member of the Spirit Lake community in North Dakota who teaches Dakota language students at the University of Minnesota. Classically trained on the guitar, he learned to merge his interest in the Dakota language and music over time. And he said his work as a musician has helped him understand how he learns.

“The best way to learn a language is to visit, to listen,” McKay said. “I use my ears a lot.”


For decades, native language speakers have been part of a larger movement of cultural revitalization for tribal communities in Minnesota and across the country. As the movement grows, the need to engage language learners in new ways increases, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Chris Griffith and Shari Aronson are co-founders of Z Puppets Rosenschnoz, a puppet theater in Minneapolis. For four years, they have performed “Say It!” Sing it! Play it! In Cherokee.

Another artist and educator, Wesley Ballinger, worked on two sets of Ojibwa language textbooks. He describes drawing characters from Ojibway stories in a room of Ojibway speakers.

“They just started to take off and then create their own stories. That moment when everyone comes together, master speakers, second language learners, artists. And he’s trying to create this beautiful thing, this very necessary thing, in this world of language revitalization,” Ballinger said.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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