The Power of Language & Lamenting the loss of Native Languages

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Ever since my husband and I downloaded the code from Ogoki Learning Systems, we have began a lengthy process of creating an app that will allow First peoples from the Munsee-Delaware First Nation to have access to approximately 2000 words of the Munsee-Delaware Language. Neither of us have ever created an app before, and are very appreciative to Darrick at Ogoki Learning Systems for making this code available to anyone wanting to preserve their Native language. But it will be a large undertaking, and one that I hope we can accomplish. My husband has been actively trying to learn this language for years now, and passing it along to our own children. But as the generations age, and fewer people of the younger generations have opportunities to continue to learn the language, what will become of the Munsee-Delaware Nation in the future?

This has given me great pause for reflection on the importance and power of language, and what the loss of a language means to the First Nations peoples. What will a loss of language mean, when there is no one left who is able to understand the ideas, concepts, attitudes, and insights, ceremonies and celebrations as they were originally shared and interpreted?

With so many dying languages among First Nations peoples, there is greater difficulty in sustaining, and passing along the heritage and the ‘old ways’. The accuracy of interpretations invariably must bend, and give way to new interpretations and perspectives.

What does it mean when the First peoples are no longer able to ‘think Native’, because it has been completely replaced with dominant languages, religions, cultures & customs? Will the First Nations ever really be able to capture that same kinship that made the First Nations peoples a strong and connected people?.

Can our schools, integrating perspectives into our Western based educational system, bring back what has already been lost, and help re-build a strong identity? Surely knowledge in different languages is limited, with an ability to only yield ‘just so much’ of what once was.

Perhaps now, we can use positive aspects of technology, to connect people and motivate them to use this ancient language on the verge of extinction. Encourage children to communicate with each other on their iPhones in Munsee, encourage on and off reserve people to communicate in their Mother language. Maybe, just maybe, we can help keep this language alive for another 7 generations.

Interesting Fact: Did you know that the Munsee-Delaware Language was the language used in the movie ‘Last of the Mohicans‘, 1992 starring Daniel Day Lewis?


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Dear Deborah,

    As an enrolled member of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation and someone who is actively learning the Munsee language, I am fascinated with the concept of a Munsee-Delaware app with access to 2,000 words. I would love to see this happen!

    I was wondering is your husband Munsee? I run a group that is learning Munsee that you may be interested called Mohican-8

    Thanks in advance,
    Wenona Morning Star Gardner


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