Native language class proposed for fall '95

By Carolyn Smith

Arizona Daily Wildcat

While Spanish and French are the most widely attended language classes at the UA and Pima Community College, faculty members are trying to bring language instruction a little closer to home.

Faculty members from both colleges have been working with local tribal organizations to find potential faculty trainees to teach Navajo, Tohono O'odham and Yaqui for the fall 1995 semester.

Although the University of Arizona already offers a beginning course in both Navajo and Tohono O'odham, and Pima has offered the first year of Tohono O'odham and Yaqui, there is a demand for these courses to include a more comprehensive curriculum with a two-year basis.

Susan Steele, UA associate vice provost for undergraduate education, said the discussion initially started over how to set up a course on Yaqui at Pima, which led to a general consensus that there is a need to have Pima and the UA work together.

"The people working on this project have been very active in accomplishing their goals," Steele said.

She said at the UA, 30 to 35 students are enrolled in the Navajo class, and 25 to 30 students are in the Tohono O'odham class.

"These classes can't compete with Spanish or German, but I think the enrollment will be good for all three of them," she said.

She said the courses will probably alternate between the UA and Pima, so the expense will be shared between both institutions

Ernesto Quiroga, a faculty member in the American Indian Studies Department at Pima Community College and a project leader, hopes the project will provide a document for Yaqui speakers who want to learn to read and write their own language, and will also give the Yaqui a permanent record.

Grace Boyne, a UA graduate student in comparative cultural and literary studies, said there are community members that are concerned about the virtual disappearance of the three languages.

"If you look at it culturally, language expresses culture, and a lot of Native Americans are missing that part of their lives," Boyne said.

Currently, one-fourth of 9,000 Yaquis in the Southwest speak Yaqui; about two-thirds of 18,000 Tohono O'odham still use their native language; and about 75 percent of 200,000 Navajos have maintained native language fluency.

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