2017 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter® Dr. Sara Merrick (neé Chase, Hoopa Valley Tribe) applied for her initial Dreamstarter grant to start a Hupa Language Immersion Camp to teach Hupa youth the language and start the process of creating new language speakers.
“Although we already have a language programs in the school, it is not a priority to the school and therefore kids get very little instruction time,” she told us.
In the following years, the camp gave the language the time and prestige it deserves and got the youth excited about learning their traditional language through cultural activities and games.
Today, the Hupa Language remains “highly endangered,” says Sara. “It is the ancestral language of my people and we currently have only a handful of fluent speakers left.”
Sara’s Dreamstarter GOLD dream is to prevent the loss of the language by expanding on her summer camps by holding a four week long Hupa Language Immersion Summer School for youth ages 5-10 and their families.
As an immersion summer school, Sara said they will be teaching all the subjects that one might find in any school today including math, science and history.
“Yet through this summer school we will be teaching these subjects in a uniquely Hupa way through culturally-based activities and the Hupa Language,” she explained. “Through this project we will create, test and improve an 8-unit, 4-week-long Hupa Language Immersion Curriculum for various grade levels. This curriculum will be based around traditional Hupa stories and traditional foods.”
In addition to utilizing the knowledge of elders and speakers in the community to create accurate and appropriate lesson plans, Sara said they will be recruiting and training new teachers to add to their current team.
“Students will be able to receive the most continuous Hupa Language Immersion instruction ever offered in the community,” she says. “Parents will be encouraged to participate as well and will be given structured opportunities to give us feedback and take part in their children’s learning.
“This summer school could also serve as a model for other Native communities both locally and nationally for language revitalization.
“My overall dream remains the same,” she added. “My initial Dreamstarter project gave my community and I the opportunity to begin building towards this dream.The XontehL-taw Language Immersion Camp is now an annual event in the community.
“This Dreamstarter GOLD funding gives us the opportunity to expand our curriculum and language immersion capabilities for a longer, more focused and intensive Hupa Language Immersion program. The possibilities are really endless for how fast our students would be able to grow in their learning through this concentrated summer school.”