Language Nests

Starting your own language nest does not take money, just time and energy. Find a native speaker of your language and spend time with them. Get your young children together with them. This is how we learn language. Not sitting in a classroom (though that can be helpful.) It’s passed down from adult to infant, toddler and preschooler.

Most tribes integrate some form of cultural education into the lives of their children. In my tribe, the Tlingit, we have summer culture camps across our nation. I am also half Taos Pueblo Indian. Taos has its own, rigorous cultural education that entails children taking time off from school to learn who they are, and where they come from. These are important lessons for our children to learn. It grounds us and gives our people cohesion. It gives our lives meaning and richness that can’t be found elsewhere.

Below are some examples of language nests that represent informal get-togethers to formal classes.

Tiwahe (Family) Nesting

We are working toward a time when Dakota families and communities again have intergenerational fluency – can sing, talk and laugh together in Dakota. A time when they are healthy and sustainable, grounded in Dakota culture and history, and connected to each other through tiospaye (kinship).

One of the components of language learning is to integrate language and life ways revitalization into the family. This method is about healing families – language being a vehicle for renewing of kinship and life ways. Families committed to language and life-long learning are supported through language and family gatherings, a nurturing and safe environment for language learning, and a neutral circle, not defined by tribal or political boundaries but one defined by kinship. Our ancestors tell us that to be a good Dakota is to be a good relative. Dakota Wicohan believes that the renewing of family is key to healing our communities. Mitakuye Owasin – We are all related.

Looking For a Nanny: Working on the Tlingit Language

“There’s not a lot of Native speakers out there to talk with. So I’m saying to the Native speakers right now: you need to be willing to take people into your life. This Master-Apprentice program sets aside a little bit of time, but really the most successful way to do it is to live together. I know that sounds weird. But sometimes you need to adopt someone into your family, and wake up with them and talk with them and argue about politics with them. Just do everything together, all the time. It’s hard. I know you. I know so many of you, you’re kinda elderly, you’re feeling tired. But, if you care, if you really want to, then take somebody young that’s really eager, and live with them. Live with them. And live in the language with them. That’s the best way to learn.”


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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2 Responses to Language Nests

  1. Red Mann says:


    I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN TO SPEAK A “native” tongue.

    Speech lessons offered on line using live vid’s would be a great way to do this.

    The teacher could charge a “fee” for the service.
    Make it the “new, hip thing to do”, and it could become a “profit maker” thanks to “outsiders” living in the “HIVE” society.

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