OKMULGEE, Oklahoma –The Mvskoke Language Program is partnering with Okmulgee Public Schools to implement classes in the curriculum to teach all attending students the Mvskoke Language as a part of the first grant awarded to the department. The grant total is $128,118 for three years.
Manager Judy Montiel said the Preservation and Maintenance grant allowed the department to hire a grant project manager and two teachers who will teach at a school site, implementing the “Opunvkv Kerretv” Learning the Language Project.
Grant Project Manager Paskova Deere was hired in May with grant funding and has worked diligently to fulfill the needs of the grant and preserve the language. His passion is language, with the sole the purpose of vamping up language outreach for the Mvskoke people. Steven Powell and Carolyn McNac were hired as teachers with the grant funds and will be teaching language in the classrooms.
It has been estimated that the Mvskoke language will be extinct in 20 years unless youth are taught to preserve and learn the language.
The grant narrative states to fix this problem the Department will provide in-person Mvskoke language instruction to 180 K-5 students at six Johnson-O’Malley Schools by the end of the grant period and offer a virtual learning platform for 170 Native American K-12 students throughout all 45 Johnson O’Malley Program school districts. The goal of this project is to increase the number of Mvskoke K-12 students who speak the Mvskoke language.
Classes will be emerged into the routine schedules of the students starting in kindergarten. The Okmulgee Primary (k-5) will implement the classes in a rotation schedule so each group will have the class once a week with an instructor Monday-Thursday. The Dunbar Middle School students will have the classes on five days a week for a nine weeks at a time for each grade; and the High school students will have them every Friday for nine weeks at a time as part of the interchangeable pilot program for Native American studies.
During a HEW Committee meeting, the Language Department asked for National Council approval of the Memorandum of Understanding between the school and the MCN on Aug. 10. The committee approved of the MOU.
According to Deere, it is mostly for the teachers’ best interest due to past experiences where teachers have been coerced into bus duty or detention duty even though they are not school employees.
Principal Chief signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Nation and the school on August 16, Deere said.
The Okmulgee Board of Education called an emergency meeting to review the Memorandum of Understanding on August 19, which was agreed upon and signed by the superintendent.
Superintendent Renee Dove, a Cherokee citizen, said she couldn’t be more excited to implement the program within the Okmulgee Public Schools. As a tribal member, she did not grow up learning her language.
“I think this is critically important,” Dove said. “We live in the capital of the Muscogee Nation, right in the heart of it. If anywhere it should be spoken it should be spoken right here and every student in our district should be able to speak the language and be fluent by the time they graduate from high school.”
Dove claims faculty will be participating in learning the Mvskoke Language along with the students. In the near future, she hopes to reinforce language usage by replacing signage around the schools common areas with Mvskoke words.
Deere said students will be tested at the beginning of the course to see what level of knowledge the students are at then will be tested again at the end of the course to determine the retention rate.
“I believe its 75% that have to reach a basic understanding of the language,” he said to the HEW Committee. “Now, that standard (basic) will be set by us.”
The teachers assumed their positions in the classroom at OPS on Aug. 22.
This is a developing story. For more information call Mvskoke Language Program at 918-732-7725.