New Town, N. Dak.–Alyce Spotted Bear, Vice President of Native American Studies and Tribal Relations at Fort Berthold Community College and member of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, is working to develop a baccalaureate program in Native American studies, Minot Daily News reported. “Teaching language and culture is a concern of many Native Americans because our language and cultures define who we are as peoples,” Spotted Bear said.
Currently, three Native languages are offered at Fort Berthold Community College: Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. These are the three Native languages spoken in the area, where Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians live together as the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation, near Lake Sakakawea.
According to Spotted Bear, the Mandan language needs a special boost, since until recently, only one person in the community, Edwin Benson, could speak it. Today, there are two people who speak Mandan. The newcomer is Cory Spotted Bear, who took lessons from Benson.
Hidatsa and Arikara are also endangered languages. According to the Native Times, one of the last fluent speakers of Arikara, Maude Starr, died on January 20, 2010. Starr was a certified language teacher.
The fact that only a few elders speak these languages makes it even more important that young people get an opportunity to study them in college.
“Becoming a four-year college is pretty exciting,” Spotted Bear said. It will be another advancement for FBCC and our community”.