Tulsa: Schools Might Provide Kiowa Language Lessons

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TPS school board members will meet Monday night to discuss a memorandum of understanding with the Kiowa Tribe that would allow any interested TPS student to take Kiowa language and culture studies beginning in the 2022–23 school year.

If the memorandum of cooperation is granted, it is believed to be the first time TPS has given lessons in any Indigenous language.

As part of the planned deal, the tribe will supply teachers and materials, while the district will provide classroom space for the programs.

In Carnegie, the Kiowa Tribe has a population of roughly 11,000 enrolled members. There was no official response from a tribe spokesman when asked how many people in the Tulsa area are Kiowa. However, prior to the pandemic, the tribe had a big enough population in the region to support frequent outreach activities.

The Kiowa language is endangered because there are no proficient speakers under the age of 18. As an isolated language, it is not connected to any other spoken language.

The American Indian Resource Center at the Tulsa City-City County Library currently offers Kiowa programs for anyone who wants to learn the language. But according to Ramon Granado, a research assistant with the Kiowa Language and Culture Revitalization Program, Tulsa Public Schools’ lessons will be more organized and official.

As part of a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Native Americans, the Kiowa Tribe won a multi-year grant in 2016 that will help the tribe’s efforts to revitalize the Kiowa language.

Despite the fact that the pandemic put a hold on implementation, similar agreements have been reached with five additional Oklahoma school districts for the next academic year: Anadarko, Carnegie, Lawton, Norman, and Western Heights.

Pinnell’s program is working with the University of Oklahoma and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha to train people to teach Kiowa.