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Artists use their skills to teach Native American languages

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Several artists across Minnesota are using their talents to help teach Native American languages

Neil McKay is a tribal member from the Spirit Lake community in North Dakota who instructs students in the Dakota language at the University of Minnesota. Classically trained in guitar, he learned to meld his interest in the Dakota language and music over time. And he said his work as a musician has helped him to understand how he learns.

“The best way that I learned language is to visit in, listen,” McKay said. “I use my ears a lot.”

For decades, Indigenous language speakers have been part of a larger movement for cultural revitalization for tribal communities in Minnesota and across the country. As the movement grows so does the need to engage language learners in new ways, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Chris Griffith and Shari Aronson are co-founders of Z Puppets Rosenschnoz, a puppet theater in Minneapolis. For the past four years, they have been performing “Say It! Sing It! Play It! In Cherokee.”

Another artist and educator, Wesley Ballinger, has worked on two series of Ojibwe language textbooks. He describes drawing characters from Ojibwe stories in a room of Ojibwe speakers.

“They just started taking off and then creating their own stories. That moment of everyone coming together, master speakers, second language learners, artists. And it’s trying to create this beautiful thing, this very necessary thing, in this world of language revitalization,” Ballinger said.