At Pendleton Early Learning Center children were learning about salmon through a new program that has kindergartners learning Umatilla language and culture.
Shawndine Jones, the center’s heritage language teacher, and Mildred Quaempts, the language coordinator for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, joined teacher Sarah Yoshioka at the front of the classroom, where they started the class with the afternoon greeting. “Niix pachwy!” said the more than a dozen kindergartners.
The class meets four days a week, as Jones meets with the children joined by CTUIR volunteers Quaempts and Linda Sampson. Through the Walk to Language program they teach the chldren Umatilla language and culture.
Jones and Quaempts taught the students the Umatilla names for salmon varieties, such as chinook (tkwinat), coho(sinux) and sockeye (kalux). Next they gave students chocolate or cinnamon scented cotton balls, asking them to find a similar scent in the room. This showed the student who salmon use smell to find the stream where they were born to return to spawn.
Walk to Language may play an important part in keeping the Umatilla language alive.