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Timeline of Munsee Language in the Stockbridge-Munsee Community
“I was on the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation in Wisconsin when the last native speaker of Munsee, a 90-year-old tribal elder died.” - Barbara Boseker
At least a half of a century had passed until the people began to ask each other, “What is our language?” and “Can you teach me what you remember.” A few words could be recalled, but then the people began to ask, “Who else speaks our language outside of our community?” 1974 marks the beginning of Munsee language revitalization efforts in the Stockbridge-Munsee community. During this time of reawakening Hannah Aikins (Munsee from Detroit, Michigan and Moraviantown, Ontario) came to the Stockbridge-Munsee community to find people that were interested in their native language. While teaching the Munsee language in Stockbridge she explained that it was difficult to find others within her own community that shared her interest to keep the language alive, and that with the lack of fellow speakers she was beginning to forget how to speak herself. From 1978 to present, involved members of the Stockbridge-Munsee community have traveled to multiple Munsee-Lunaape (Delaware) communities in Canada to learn language from Hannah Aikins, Bill Dolson, Emily Johnson, Glenn Jacobs, Velma Noah and Bruce Stonefish (Hannah Aikins’ grandson). For the past 34 years small language resource repositories have been developed by tribal members. These collections include various forms of media that document the language. In 1980 tribal members voiced a need to develop a language program and curriculum for public schools. This aspiration was partially met in 1993 when the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Council (SMTC) approved to match funds for a public school instructor of tribal cultural heritage but excluded language instruction from the original program. With the assistance of fluent and learning speakers from Canada, Stockbridge-Munsee tribal members have been able to conduct brief language classes in the community that have been held during 1997; 2002; 2006; 2007; and 2008. Since 2005 there has been consistent attendance of tribal members at all annual Lunaape Language Immersion Camps held in Moraviantown, Ontario. Within the same year a written request for support and commitment to develop a language program was addressed to the SMTC. Presently, tribal members continue to find avenues through which the community will gain access to the Munsee language whether through short term funding or volunteering. Recent efforts to stabilize language instruction and use include holding weekly evening classes at the Church of the Wilderness.
Sources for Munsee Language in the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Monique J. Tyndall (Munsee-Lunaape, Mohican, Muskogee-Creek, Omaha; Elk Clan)
I. The Disappearance of American Indian Languages, Barbara J. Boseker, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Vol. 15, Numbers 2 and 3, Page 150, 1994.
Unpublished Papers from the private Munsee Language Repository of Marlene Molly Miller and Arvid E. Miller Library/Museum
II. Stockbridge-Munsee Historical Committee Meeting Notes, Ruth Gudinas, 1974-2008. III. Revitalization of the Stockbridge-Munsee Language Abstract, Wasalangwe Marlene Molly Miller, 1982 IV. Lunaape Language Workshop Class Results, Glen Jacobs, 2006 V. Request for Support and Commitment to Stockbridge- Munsee Tribal President and Tribal Council, Wasalangwe Marlene Molly Miller, 2005. VI. Stockbridge-Munsee Historical Committee Meeting Notes, Ruth Gudinas, 1974-2008.