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To Preserve and Protect

Kindergarten through high school students at the Salish School of Spokane learn the Salish language, the ancestral language of Native Americans in the region. As most native speakers are now elders, the school seeks to preserve and revitalize the Salish language and culture.

For the past five years, Whitworth education majors and Master in Teaching graduate students have been doing their intercultural fieldwork at the Salish School, a nonprofit charitable organization whose students teach the education students the language.

"It has been a delightful surprise to have Whitworth University reach out to us in solidarity to honor and support our mission by placing students with us," says Chris Parkin, principal of the Salish School. "We hope the students learn, and really take into their hearts, how high-quality, differentiated instruction and strong teacher support can help students who are English- or other-language learners. It also gives our students pride in themselves to teach their language and culture to Whitworth students."

Now, Whitworth has become part of an extraordinary collaborative effort to familiarize the Spokane community with the region's first language.

The Whitworth School of Education has joined the Salish School and the Spokane Public Library system to create the Salish Word Book. The book will introduce words and phrases from the four Southern Interior Salish languages: Colville-Okanagan Salish, Spokane-Kalispel Salish, Wenatchee-Columbian Salish and Coeur d'Alene Salish.

An audio component will accompany the book; the group felt that since Salish is rooted in an oral tradition, hearing it spoken would allow people to truly experience the language.

The project is supported by a Whitworth Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion grant awarded to Assistant Professor Anne Wilcox, director of the English Language Learner Endorsement program in the Whitworth School of Education. The Spokane Public Library system is assisting with funding, and the Salish School has developed the book and the auditory component. Both will be available at Spokane’s public library branches this fall.