Hello my name is Sasha Toribio. I am from Zia Pueblo, located in Zia, New Mexico. I attend Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and for a year and a half I have been studying within the early childhood program. During my fall trimester of 2013 I enrolled in the new early childhood Special Topics course taught by Dr. Danielle Lansing (a course developed under the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative, administered by the American Indian College Fund).
In the early childhood education Special Topics course I learned about the history of Native American education and why Native students in early childhood program, our future teachers, should care about preserving our Native languages. The whole concept of the Special Topics course was to understand the importance and powerful role of Native language immersion in early childhood curriculum. I completely agree that Native American teachers need to understand that our Native language is important to our culture, tradition, and to our little ones.
Without our language, our people have no culture. And without culture, we have no tradition. And without tradition, we have nothing. Our Native language is what separates us from the rest of society. If we lose our languages along with our cultures and traditions, then we lose the long time battle of assimilation. Our ancestors did not fight and risk their lives to give up our culture, so why should we give up our culture now? Our language is very important to what we have left as Native peoples. We are now in what education scholars refer to as a “safe zone,” a place in which Native Americans can speak their language and not be punished. I am glad to be a part of preserving our language because our future generations can have the choice to learn their language. Not every child may have access to learn their language, but at least years into the future there will be someone to teach them. I love that there are people like Tarajean Yazzie (Program Officer of the Wakanyeja ECE Initiative) and Danielle Lansing (SIPI early childhood faculty and Sacred Little Ones Project Director) who care about Native language and culture enough to do something about it.
The Sacred Little Ones project at SIPI has created an opportunity for the Special Topics course to exist and for culturally-relevant learning activities with local early learning centers serving Native children and families to flourish. With the help of tribal college students, we can save our Native languages starting with teaching future teachers the importance of language immersion and cultural preservation.
by: Sasha Toribio, SIPI Early Childhood Education Student
Excerpt from AIHEC presentation by Yazzie-Mintz, T., Lansing, D., & Toribio, S., (2014, March). To become a teacher of the next generation: Counting coup with education in honor of our youngest tribal members. Session presented at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Conference, Billings, MT.