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Press Release

Release Date: January 20, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

JoAnn Ellis, Vera Tims, Geneva Holman and Jerry Imotichey among treasured Chickasaw elders to share their stories

Speakers fluent in the Chickasaw language are featured sharing stories on YouTube.

Formally called “Documenting Endangered Languages/National Science Foundation grant,” the project features many fluent Chickasaw speakers telling childhood stories and recollections.

English subtitles are included in the videos.

The late Jerry Imotichey (1938-2016) shares a story from his childhood about the sighting of a Lhofa’, or Bigfoot.

Imotichey was a longtime collaborator with the Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program. He was a skilled teacher of the language as well as a prodigious translator who worked on many projects, including language publications for the Chickasaw Press.

Geneva Holman, Chickasaw Language Committee member, shares a story from her childhood about an event at a church meeting when families would camp during the weekend. Holman grew up near Boiling Springs Church in Allen, Oklahoma, and currently resides in Ada. She is a wonderful storyteller and happily shares her knowledge with new speakers of Chikashshanompa’.

The late Vera Tims (1945-2021) shares a story about her grandfather. She was a longtime tribal employee and spent the latter part of her career as a youth language educator focused on early childhood and childcare programs.

Chickasaw speaker JoAnn Ellis tells a shikonno’pa’ (a traditional animal story) about Buzzard and Rabbit. Ellis is a Native speaker of Chickasaw and resident of Tupelo, Oklahoma. She served as a language educator for the Chickasaw Nation for many years and remains actively involved with the Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program.

The videos are made possible through a 2013-19 grant secured by the Chickasaw Nation and Dr. Colleen Fitzgerald, vice president at North Dakota State University, formerly of the University of Texas at Arlington.

With fewer than 35 fluent Chickasaw speakers alive today, the grant was critically important to provide video and audio of the language by fluent speakers, Executive Officer of Language Preservation Dr. Joshua Hinson said.

The new videos also come at a time when a new language program, aimed at adults, is being launched by the Chickasaw Nation.

The Chickasaw Nation’s Chikasha Academy Adult Immersion Program (CAAIP) will soon begin its 2022-2024 program. The exclusive program immerses participants in a three-year long, 40-hour per week regiment that allows students to learn the Chickasaw language while being compensated.

“It’s an intensive, structured group immersion,” Hinson said. “Our goal is to create conversationally fluent speakers that can communicate with one another and with Native speakers of Chickasaw, and who can effectively teach the Chickasaw language to others.”

Participants can learn from second language and master-level fluent speakers of the Chickasaw language who are immersed in the language for up to eight hours a day.

The structured immersion environment equips participants who complete the program to be the next generation of Chickasaw language speakers.

The program begins in February.

Videos will continue to be added to the Chickasaw Nation Culture and Humanities YouTube page throughout the year. To view the video presentations, go to YouTube and search “Chickasaw Nation Culture and Humanities.”

Another measure the Chickasaw Nation is promoting is Rosetta Stone Chickasaw. More than 8,000 Chickasaw citizens, employees and others have acquired licenses for the language app since its launch in 2017. Rosetta Stone is an award-winning language learning software platform.

Rosetta Stone Chickasaw has three engaging levels incorporating video, audio and still images. Developed in conjunction with Native Chickasaw speakers, users can work through lessons at their own pace and learn conversational Chickasaw phrases that can be incorporated into daily life.

Rosetta Stone Chickasaw is now available at no cost to Chickasaw citizens, and to Chickasaw Nation employees. It is available to the public at a nominal cost. Visit Chickasaw.net for more information.