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Omaha tribe hopes documentary will help preserve language

July 8, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha Tribe hopes a new documentary will help preserve its fading native language that only a few people speak.

Omaha-based director Brigitte Timmerman created the one-hour “The Omaha Speaking” documentary in partnership with Omaha tribal elder Octa Keen, the Omaha World-Herald reported . The movie was recently screened for about 100 people on the tribe’s reservation.

“The only way we can do this is to show future generations,” Timmerman said. “Now it’s up to them to take a step up and want to learn it and create fluent speakers.”

Interviews for the documentary spanned an 18-month period. Some elders feel that a culture dies when the language dies, she said.

“There’s so much more to their language than just speaking it,” Timmerman said. “It’s a way of speaking to their creator and it’s a connection to their culture.

The language, called Umonhon, means “upstream,” which is in reference to the tribe’s migration.

“We wanted to create awareness,” said Keen, a 76-year-old fluent speaker. “I think when (people) see the documentary they’ll realize that we were trying this hard to preserve the language.”

Timmerman has not yet set a release date for the film. She wanted to show the finished product to the tribe before taking it to film festivals or distributors.

“It’s their message,” she said. “I wanted it to be in their words and their view.”

The documentary is another of the tribe’s efforts to preserve its language. The tribe has also created education programs for the language at both the K-12 and community college levels.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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