Federal grant aims to help revitalize United Houma Nation's native language

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An $84,000 federal grant will help the United Houma Nation and the Houma Language Project to develop native language skills among its members.

The 18-month program is the first partnership between the tribe and the Houma Language Project, which works to study and revitalize the Houma Nation's native language, referred to as Uma.

The project received the grant from the Administration for Native Americans as part of the American Rescue Plan, a bill passed by Congress in March aimed at stimulating the U.S. economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tcãtcuba' means alligator in the indigenous Houma language. This alligator lives in the bayou right next to the United Houma Nation tribal office at 400 Monarch Drive.
Tcãtcuba' means alligator in the indigenous Houma language. This alligator lives in the bayou right next to the United Houma Nation tribal office at 400 Monarch Drive.

The grant will help establish a Houma Language Committee made up of Tribal Council members and staff, Houma Language Project representatives and tribal community volunteers who speak French.

Internships will be offered each semester for tribe members ages 14-25 to learn Houma language skills. Each can earn $500 through a three-month internship and select from three learning tracks:

  • Partner with a French-speaking relative for in-person conversations to learn about where the language is spoken and how it changes.

  • Contribute online to the Houma Language Project's efforts to bring back the tribe's native language.

  • Assist with language and cultural research with United Houma Nation archivists.

“It was important that the students have the opportunity to pick their own learning track,” said Hali Dardar, co-founder of the Houma Language Project.

“Our tribe’s community knowledge is still alive and available in French, most academic research and contemporary dialogue happens in English, and we have a historical cultural connection to Muskogean languages that's captured in Uma," she said. "We need to value each of these and invite the next generation to hold ownership in all of these efforts.”

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The project will have options for in-person and online learning to allow students from any location or school district to participate.

Before receiving their stipend at the end of the internship, students will be asked to prepare a report that can help the Houma Language Committee develop language-preservation and immersion strategies for future projects.

United Houma Nation youths can sign up to receive updates at bit.ly/3p86gYc.

The United Houma Nation is also hosting a Kickstarter campaign through Nov. 30 for another project to produce educational books and materials, some which have been out of print since the 1990s. The books will be updated to include revitalized native language in collaboration with the Houma Language Project. For details, visit http://kck.st/3nNsJsF.

This article originally appeared on The Courier: Grant aims to help revitalize United Houma Nation's native language