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Indigenous Languages Conference Starts Sunday

BEND, OR -- The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs hosts a four-day language conference in Bend, starting Sunday. The grant-funded event offers classes and presentations on linguistics, computer technology, and youth leadership.

Gina Ricketts, with the Warm Springs Culture and Heritage Department, says it’s important to preserve indigenous languages, “We’re seeing now this surge of learning our languages and the importance of how it increases student’s retention, and it lowers depression and suicide rates, and increases GPA.”

‘Healing Through Our Languages’ is the first of its kind in Central Oregon in almost 20 years. Experts say in that same time, fluency of languages spoken by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs decreased.

Guest speakers will have a special focus on teaching youth. “The conference is all about how language can be used to heal generational trauma. We have a lot of instructors actually modeling how to teach indigenous languages in classes,” says Ricketts.

The Culture and Heritage Department’s Lori Switzler tells KBND News fluency of the three languages spoken by the confederated tribes has decreased, but schools are trying to reverse the trend, “The language department has really kicked it into gear to just keep the language alive. It was determined that children that learn their language in culture have more self-esteem and confidence and do better with their educational studies and goals.”  She says language programs run through all grade levels on the reservation, and have been very popular. 

‘Healing Through Our Languages’ runs Sunday through Wednesday at OSU-Cascades.

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