The Oneida Indian Nation’s Language Program is readying new materials for Members and children enrolled in the Early Learning Center to expand the language’s daily use. Early in 2019, in coordination with Madison-Oneida BOCES, the department will print and distribute a short storybook entitled The Robin Legend. The department also produced a new 2019 calendar complete with more basic words and phrases in the Oneida language.

Oneida Indian Nation language trainee, Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan), contributed her own drawings for the book, which will help illustrate the story for the younger kids she interacts with every day. The story follows how the robin got its red chest and the lessons he learns along the way. The book will have a large hardcover with a paper jacket.

Madison-Oneida BOCES is helping to produce the book for the Oneida Indian Nation. The ongoing partnership has helped the language department expand its reach and continually develop new materials to modernize how the language is taught and learned.

Using a simple picture at first, Chelsea builds on to it to create her own versions that fit with the story.

“I’ll outline the pictures with a sharpie once I finish a sketch,” Chelsea said explaining her process. “It starts simple, but once I highlight them and color them in, they really stand out.”

The book is set to print in January 2019.

The calendars with basic words and phrases have been an annual staple for the families of children enrolled at the ELC and Members. The graphics with the Oneida words on the top of each month can also be turned into flash cards so they stay relevant throughout the year. And new this year, the department is preparing pocket-sized calendars that can be taken on the go.

Oneida language trainee, Clairese Patterson (Wolf Clan), recently completed a holiday-themed project for the kids at the ELC. She hand-made special ornaments for the kids to take home and give to their families. Claire continues to work with the younger kids at the center and says it’s important to use the language as often as possible.

Clairese Patterson (Wolf Clan), Mary Blau (Turtle Clan) and Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan)

“You have to use it in conversation,” she said. “The kids pick up on it much easier when you play to learn. My daughter can point to a fish, or a dog, or a cat when we say the word in English or Oneida.”

The department is also excited to expand its digital archive of materials with fluent speakers, James Antone and Ray George, as it documents several classes in traditional cooking and crafts. Later this year, it will release a video on how to make traditional corn soup complete with Oneida and English subtitles so everybody can follow along.

Language instructor, Mary Blau (Turtle Clan), is enthusiastic about the coming year and all of the progress the department has made in a short time.

“We are looking forward to these new projects,” she said. “We’re starting to get everything digitized and archived so the department can have a solid foundation to teach from.”

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