By: Roselynn Yazzie
FORT HALL- I remember when I was working in the tribes over the summer, one of the ladies I was taking classes from, Roseann Abrahamson, told us a little about our Bannock history.
Back in the mid-19th century the government made all the Native American children go to these boarding schools. They forced the Native children to cut their hair and to forget their Native languages and to be ashamed of being Native.
“The Bannock Language is so vital to the Shoshone-Bannock people therefore it is encouraged to the native youth to learn their native language.” Jamie Stevenson, High School Student Support Specialist for the Tribal Youth Education Program, said. “There are many opportunities to learn the language. The youth can start by speaking and talking to your elders. Or attend classes (or by zoom) in Fort Hall at the cultural and language department located in the old Fort Hall Police Station. Also, the Tribal Youth Education Program summer youth employment program offers classroom training of Bannock history & language taught by Roseann Abrahamson. There is hope in reviving the Bannock Language.”
Stevenson encourages our native youth to learn the language and seek those opportunities to be able to learn the Bannock language. “The Bannock Gathering happens every year in August right before the annual Shoshone-Bannock Festival. It’s a two-day conference. Bannock speakers from the tribe talk about the history, culture, and language of the Bannock people giving the audience tremendous knowledge about the Bannock culture.”
Classes are provided but is limited to only Sho-Ban tribal members, in order to keep the language sacred and original to the people it represents.
“Only a dozen people in Indian Country still speak the Bannock language,” Roselynn Yazzie, assistant editor for the Sho-Ban News, said.
She explained besides the Language & Cultural Preservation Department, some schools teach the Bannock language, such as Chief Tahgee and Sho-Ban Jr./Sr. High School. But they mostly teach Shoshone.“The Shoshone language is more known since it has been written down on paper and in some text books on the Fort Hall Indian reservation,” Yazzie said.
Yazzie explained, “Shoshone and Bannock are kind of similar because when you hear elders speak to each other some are speaking Bannock and some are speaking Shoshone but they still understand each other, the only difference is how the words roll off their tongue due to different dialects in families or areas they came from.”
In a Sho-Ban News article October, 7th 2021, Louise E. Dixey stated, “However there is still a need for individualized learning opportunities; so the LCPD is planning to develop instructional lessons for all ages through the use of language labs in the districts or at one central location. It will be developed over the next year. The Language & Cultural Preservation Department will continue to apply for grants to revitalize the languages.”
As a young Shoshone Bannock woman I’m hopeful that our generation will pick up the language and I look forward to being apart of it.