Hoocak First Listeners Project

By Ho-Chunk Language Department

Hoocak language revitalization efforts have been underway since 1993, only a handful of proficient language speakers have been produced as a result of this effort.  The 2015 Ho-Chunk Nation Census revealed 83% of families reported the frequency of their daily Hooca?k language usage as “rarely” or “not at all.” 
Data gathered from the 2015 Ho-Chunk Nation Census and the 2016 Address Verification Survey indicated the following:
Hoocak is the first language of one percent (1%) of the Ho-Chunk Nation. 
99% (6,952) of tribal member’s age 0-59 years must be considered mono lingual with English being their first language. (less than 1% being the bilingual children from the Hoocak immersion daycares)
Ho-Chunk Nation elders (age 60+) comprise of 11% of the total population of the Nation.
Ho-Chunk Nation Elite Elders (age 70+) comprise of 3% of the Nation’s total population.  48% of Elite Elders self-identified as fluent in the language.
Eminent Speakers are defined as individuals whose first language was Hooca?k AND who use the language on a daily basis for communication at a high proficiency. 
All Eminent Speakers are Elite Elders (age 70+) of the Nation. 
According to the HCN statistics, the Nation has 107 first language speakers.  The Language Division has only been able to identify 50 – 60.
First Listeners are defined as individuals who grew up in homes where Hooca?k was the primary language for communication and who understand the language today but do not speak the language.  These are the gems we are looking for!
The social history of the Ho-Chunk People is one contributing factor that has had an impact on the state of the Hoocak language.  During the 1940’s, there was a transition in Hoocak homes where the family units transitioned from using Hoocak as the primary language for communication to using English as the primary language.  Individuals developing their language skills understood the Hoocak language at that time, but due to economic, social, political or even environmental reasons, today they do not speak their language.  It is understood that for these people, the language is repressed\dormant.  It is our estimation that those individuals are 60 years of age and older today.  As this is an estimation, that age could be extended or reduced and will vary for each individual basis.
The Hoocak Waaziija Haci Language Division has been planning and developing a language project to focus on the membership that understands the language, the Hoocak Language First Listeners Project.  The Division has partnered with the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Aging Unit and the Elder Work Program to make this project a reality.  The goal of the Hoocak Language First Listener Project aims to reawaken the Hoocak language in First Listener by engaging them in language revitalization activities, empowering them to speak, while assisting them as they oversee community language projects focused on providing language instruction or promoting language awareness in their communities.  Achieving these efforts will ensure the survival and vitality of the Hoocak language in all Ho-Chunk communities.
Long Term Community Goal:  Ensuring the Hoocak Language continues to be a living language in all Hoocak communities.
Current Community Condition:  An overwhelming majority of First Listeners do not use the language on a daily basis.  The transmission of the Hoocak language from one generation to another has all but ceased.
Project Goal: Reawaken the first language in Ho-Chunk elder “First Listeners” while facilitating the development of skills to share the language.
The Plan is to have two cohorts consisting of 7 - 9, Ho-Chunk Nation enrolled elders, male and female embark on a journey aimed to cultivate language reawakening experiences’, rich in authentic language & culture, creating highly proficient speakers of the language. Cohorts will meet for 3 hours per week for 2 - 3 years.  Simultaneously, Frist Listeners will participate in a train the trainer model program in 21st century teaching skills with the option to earn a teaching certificate to teach the Hoocak language by the Ho-Chunk Nation Language & Culture Committee.  Each participant will have the opportunity to be directly responsible for preserving and maintaining the Hoocak language through community language projects that will assure the positive movement of the current State of the Hoocak language.  Successful completion of the project objectives will assure that the elders remain the source for language knowledge for years to come.
A majority of the First Listeners are assumed to be of “elder” status within the Ho-Chunk Nation.  In American society, these members are or will be beginning a new phase of their lives as they have recently retired or are contemplating retirement.  For that reason, the Project will hold once session during the 8 – 4:30 work day and one outside regular work hours.
In year one, the participants of the project, the two cohorts, each consisting of 7- 9 elder First Listeners, are provided with language instruction and training focused on “everyday conversation”, heritage language educational healing, and skill building. Participants will be focused on speaking proficiency and obtaining sufficient knowledge in second language teacher education. 
In year two, the cohorts will continue increasing their speaking proficiency and can begin the application process to become Certified Hoocak Language teachers.  In addition, the cohorts will design and implement a community group project focused on raising awareness of the state of the Hooca?k language.  The participants will begin planning for an Individual Community Language Projects, provided available funding. 
In year three, participants will complete their Individual Community Language Projects, provided funding is available.
The project start date will be during the first week of January 2019.  The location of the project will be determined based on the transportation availability of the participants.  Applications to apply to be a participant of the project will be available at all TAU sites, can be downloaded at www.hoocak.org.  Applications will be accepted from November 5 – 30, 2018.
For more information contact Jessi Falcon at Jessi.Falcon@ho-chunk.com or Samson Falcon at Samson.Falcon@ho-chunk.com