Lots of new things happening at the Tribal Language Department Saturday community language classes coming March 17

Language Teachers Archie Cantrell and Chris Briden work on Twulshootseed with middle school students at Chief Leschi Schools.

In the Feb. 23 edition of the Puyallup Tribal News, a new addition to the paper was launched with the Puyallup Tribal Language Department now providing an informational monthly column on pg. 2. The idea is to bring together the Lushootseed-speaking community with messages in the language and in English.

“Each month we’d like to spotlight what’s going on in our Lushootseed community and what we’re doing,” said Language Department Director Amber Hayward. “From the outside looking in to Lushootseed it can be intimidating so we just want to show things about Lushootseed, where to get learning material online, and things like that.”

Taking an active role in helping to prepare the community for the upcoming “Power Paddle to Puyallup” canoe journey (July 28-Aug. 4), the Feb. 23 column includes links to the Language Department’s website at www.PuyallupTribalLanguage.org/culture where you’ll find 14 videos for vocabulary. These were posted in order to help the membership learn how to properly speak simple phrases in Lushootseed, like introducing yourself and expressing gratitude toward canoe journey visitors to the Puyallup reservation. There are also eight songs from the Puyallup people at the same website – www.PuyallupTribalLanguage.org/audio/communitysongs.php – to practice before the canoe journey gets underway this summer.

In addition to this, the Language Department has a lot going on,

as the dedicated staff continues to revitalize Lushootseed among the tribal membership. It’s a small staff doing great things: Director Amber Hayward; Language Consultant Zalmai Zahir; Media Developer Chris Duenas; Language Teachers Archie Cantrell, David Sway-la Cougar Duenas and Chris Briden; and newly hired Program Service Coordinator Hope Morey.

Hope’s hiring illustrates how the Language Department continues to grow, and Amber Hayward thanked the Tribal Council for approving the new position, as the department had no administrative help prior to hiring Hope.

“We’re very happy to have Hope with us,” Amber said. Hope will take care of administrative work, coordinate classes and events and work with certifying through Washington State anyone who wants to be a Lushootseed language instructor. She’ll also create a database of all training materials and provide many more services as well. She has started researching how to create children’s books with pictures and Lushootseed words, a Lushootseed alphabet book and numbers book to help children get started, and also “nest” books for the kitchen and bathroom to help adult learners self-narrate in Lushootseed the steps they’re taking to complete common chores, a very effective way to practice the language in one’s daily life.

Hope said she’s excited to keep learning the language in such an immersive environment, and anticipates that after about a year she will be proficient in Lushootseed and offer even more help to the staff.

“I’m sure I’ll take on a lot more as the program grows and we create together what this position will be,” she said.

Media Developer Chris Duenas has completed all updates to the Language Department website, making sure that it includes pretty much all the materials one would need to start learning and using Lushootseed.

Language Department Director Amber Hayward (left) has been helping the department’s newest hire, Program Service Coordinator Hope Morey, learn the ropes.

“Everything that our language instructors use in their classes is all online,” Amber said. “We tried to put as much information on there as we could.” In addition to the how-to videos and step-by-step instructions on how to say common phrases for the upcoming canoe journey, work is being done now to create a larger canoe journey video with even more useful information.

Due to numerous requests that the department has been getting from those in the community who want to learn the language, starting Saturday, March 17, community language classes will be offered at the Little Wild Wolves Youth and Community Center. There’s no need to register – just come and enjoy the cultural experience. Running from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a light lunch served, these classes are intended to accommodate busy parents and adults who work from 9-5 during the week. The class will be taught by Amber Hayward, Archie Cantrell along with Paige Pettibon and Kayla Guyett, both of whom are Native American and Chief Leschi staff members who attended the Lushootseed Language Institute (LLI) at University of Washington-Tacoma.

“It’s pretty much a condensed version of the Lushootseed Language Institute,” Amber explained, “for those people who were not able to go for the full two-week LLI.”


Teaching Lushootseed out in the community continues to be a top priority for the Language Department, led by Archie Cantrell, Chris Briden and David Sway-la Cougar Duenas, all of whom are Washington State certified teachers. It begins with the littlest children at Grandview Early Learning Center. Working there with teachers and students alike, David Sway-la Cougar Duenas supports Lenissa Grover, a Level I language teacher at Grandview, to bring Lushootseed words and phrases into classrooms.

“I’m praisingly thankful for my work,” David said. “I work with Lushootseed all day every day. I go everywhere and speak Lushootseed to everyone. Now I’m teaching people and I’m thankful for this work.”

In teaching adults, David brings his knowledge of the language to tribal employees in departments at the Administration Building and Business Incubator, the Culture Department and to teachers after hours at Chief Leschi with Chris Briden.

“I’m trying to introduce people to Lushootseed – give them a strong base for them to start learning. I get them interested and speaking in a classroom setting and I encourage them to do this on their personal time too. Our mission statement here is ‘be kind, helpful and sharing,’ and that’s how I encourage people.”

Working as a team, Archie Cantrell and Chris Briden teach Lushootseed classes for three periods a day to Chief Leschi middle school and high school students. These are elective classes and offer college credits as well. The curriculum – worksheets, tests, teaching materials, etc. – is all of the Language Department’s own creation since there is no existing curriculum for teaching Lushootseed in schools.

Archie said he is amazed at how quickly the students are learning, with several students now capable of carrying on conversations fully in the language.

“We try to work on conversation every day…to make it usable for them and the kids have really taken to it,” he said.

This success is no doubt due in part to the teaching methods he and Chris Briden use to teach words and phrases that the youth can relate to.

“We moved last week to make-up, since our fourth period class is mostly girls, so that worked out well,” as Archie explained. “Come to find out, now they’re all on the softball team, so we started working on stuff for softball. It’s been interesting because there are a lot of words we found that we don’t have so we’re trying to develop words for ‘base’ and ‘softball.’ It’s challenging our creativity as well.”

“The fun part for me is having the topics be about something they can actually use,” Chris Briden said. “A lot of times in class we’ll listen to what they’re talking about – texting one another, for example – and useful things that bring the language into the 21st century.”

The Language Program leads circle at Chief Leschi once a month as well. “Lately, Chris and I have been trying to pick out kids that can lead the circle,” Archie said. “We don’t speak English at circle – the entire thing is run in Lushootseed. For the most part we’re able to accomplish that, with about half a dozen kids going up and speaking Lushootseed in front of the entire school for the entire circle.”

For adults wanting to learn Lushootseed, the Language Department offers online at the capacity that it can in order to fit students’ busy schedules. Chris Briden teaches online through Google Hangouts. “That’s a fun project. I really enjoy that one,” he said.

Keep looking to the Puyallup Tribal News for updated information via the Language Department’s regular column, and visit www.PuyallupTribalLanguage.org to learn more.