Culture

Wah.Zha.Zhe I.E. (Osage language) could be coming to a classroom near Osages everywhere.

The Osage Language Department, Osage Information Technology Department, Edmond Public Schools Instructional Technology and the Indian Education program has collaborated to test a pilot program utilizing Microsoft Office Live Meeting to teach language classes via teleconferencing.

The language department’s Edmond language class, taught by Osage Language Department Director Herman “Mogri” Lookout and Scott Lohah, as well as Indian Educator of the Year Sydna Yellowfish (Osage). Edmond will be the test site and Yellowfish is excited.

“The ‘Distance Learning Project’ is the beginning of a goal that was brought to my attention for the 2010-2011 school year,” she said. “I look at this as an educational tool that can bring positive developments with our Osage language.”

Yellowfish said that as a pilot program the language department can iron out any problems that may arise before they launch a nation-wide effort, if the pilot is a success.

“Whether learning a language by classroom style or by video conferencing, students will still need to participate by attending, studying and conversing with other language speakers,” Yellowfish said. “It is hopeful teaching through technology will enable Osages easier accessibility to learn.”

Sara Marcus, an Osage language student at the Edmond site and an employee at the Indian Health Service in Oklahoma City, thinks that by teaching the language via teleconferencing will make learning the language more convenient for her.

“To live in [Oklahoma City] and have the opportunity to learn Osage language and culture through a local teleconference class is fantastic!” she said. “I work [Monday through Friday], 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and to drive to Pawhuska once a week would be difficult and costly.”

Yellowfish is confident the Distance Learning Project will be successful in educating Osages in the Osage language.

“Our school needs will be addressed and we will accommodate the necessary needs for this [pilot] program to work,” she said. “Success will be determined by attendance, number of students enrolled and assessments as needed to measure language growth.”

Edmond site

The Osage language department started their fall semester the week of Sept. 13 and in that first week the Edmond site had 18 participants, Yellowfish said. The student’s age range at the Edmond site is from seven-years-old to 70-years-old, and most are returning students who have been taking classes there for four years.

The Osage language is currently taught in five sites: Pawhuska, Hominy, Fairfax, Skiatook and Edmond.

“The Indian Education program provides classrooms, supplies, computer needs and instructional costs,” Yellowfish said. “The [Osage] language department provides the curriculum and updated technology.”

The Edmond language site is located at Boulevard Academy ALT School, 215 N. Boulevard. Class times are Tuesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the school year.

“A goal like this will enhance educational advancement for our language to continue and reach Osages who may not live close by,” Yellowfish said. “You could say the negative is with any new learning concept, a student will need to have determination to want to learn their Osage language.”

To learn more about Microsoft Office Live Meeting, visit www.microsoft.com/online/office-live-meeting-aspx.

For more information about the Distance Learning Project, or to enroll in the language program, contact language recruiter Rebekah HorseChief at (918) 287-5683 or e-mail her at rhorsechief@osagetribe.org.