Heritage University Language Center Works to Keep Sahaptin Langu - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Heritage University Language Center Works to Keep Sahaptin Language Alive in the Yakima Valley

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YAKIMA, WA - Spoken by members of the Yakama Nation Indian Tribe, Sahaptin or "Ischiskiin" is a dying language. That prompted Greg Sutterlict, Director of the Heritage University Language Center (HULC) to take action.

Right now, he teaches an after-school Sahaptin language course at the Zillah School District. Before he introduced this course, he says, there was nothing connecting students, including his own, to their Native American culture. 

"The kids pick up on a stronger self-identity. I get to witness them as they grow stronger and more confident in the language," said Sutterlict. 

Sheadan Heemsah is currently taking the Sahaptin class and tells us what she enjoys most. 

 "I Iove that we can learn our language and that maybe one day we'll be able to speak to someone in our language," said Heemsah. 

The after-school pilot program is in its second year. Ultimately, Sutterlict tells us he'd like to expand the program to reach more students in other schools around the Yakima Valley.