Madras High School students now have the option to learn the Ichishkin language, one of three languages native to the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.
Language instructor Dallas Winishut, who was born and raised in Warm Springs, says this class is an important one as fewer tribal members use the language.
“I’m working with like six speakers, probably the last of our speakers in Warm Springs,” Winishut said. “We lost like four in the last two years. So our language is dying really fast.”
The goal is to teach young tribal members.
There is an option currently available for K-8 students in Warm Springs, but the Madras High class has not been available since the late 90’s.
Sophomore Kahmussa Green is one of six students in the revived class, all of whom are tribal members.
“It’s good to learn my own language, and mostly it’s being forgotten,” Green said. “I feel like I need to bring it back.”
Green says she is learning the language herself and teaching her family along the way.
“Basically, every day when I go home,” Green said. “I tell my mom what we learn in this class every day.”
Winishut calls these students ‘the new pioneers’ of the class.
It is not the largest group, but every person counts.
“It’ll be their turn to take this job,” Winishut said. “What us language teachers are doing now.”
It is an intro level course worth more than a course credit.
“If they learn one word, I’ll be proud of them. If they learn 10 words, I’ll be proud of them. If they learn 100 words, I’ll be even more proud of them,” Winishut said. “That shows that I’m doing my job.”