The Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Ute Indian tribes are creating a Ute language immersion program that can be implemented in schools.
The Southern Ute Department of Education is working with the Colorado Department of Education to ensure the curriculum matches state standards. The program remains under development. Southern Ute education director LaTitia Taylor did not mention an implementation date during an Ignacio school board meeting Monday.
“We’re looking at trying to build our own immersion program rather than other groups coming in and selling us a product and buying what they have,” Taylor said. “I really think we have enough people to do that.”
Taylor said the tribes are considering a variety of resources for the curriculum, like Ute language speakers, elders, people with multimedia experience and members of each tribe.
She hoped to see more future involvement from Ignacio High School and Ignacio Middle School regarding advancing Ute language courses.
The Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy, which serves students from birth to age 12, already includes a comprehensive Ute language program for students.
Middle school students can take a Native American class that includes Ute language lessons, and Ignacio High School offers a Native American studies class and a Ute language class.
However, this year, the high school did not see enough class enrollment to schedule the full-year Ute language class. The district plans to offer the class to all students during the upcoming school year as long as a tribe-certified teacher is available and students enroll, said Rocco Fuschetto, district superintendent.
Ute language education is a top priority within the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
For example, Southern Ute tribal members emphasized Ute language education during November’s Indian Policies and Procedures meeting, a meeting where Ignacio community members, school district staff and tribal members meet to discuss educational priorities.
Tribal council members Cheryl Frost and Ramona Eagle also attended the school board meeting.
“I will be honest, I hated school. I ditched as much as I could. I just didn’t feel supported by my teachers or the principal,” said Frost. “I’m really glad that it looks like things have turned around. I think a lot of that goes to the board, as well as to the staff, the teachers. So just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Frost emphasized the support within the district and encouraged non-native community members to learn a few words.
“It would be really great to have more support regarding the Ute language classes ... just to keep encouraging the students to be proud of who they are, be proud of their language,” Frost said. “Because without our language, then really we are no longer, really, truly, Ute people.”