Jemez Towa Language Program
A Community Effort
The Pueblo of Jemez has continued its traditional way of life, values and culture for centuries. The Hemish people build strong foundations rooted in fundamental skills that are taught only through a unique language, Towa. Towa is an unwritten language spoken by someone who has been raised in a traditional home and taught orally. Jemez is the only tribe that speaks the Jemez “Towa” Language.
Jemez realized a language shift in 2006, and took an opportunity to seek resources:
- Jemez Department of Education applied to New Mexico Public Education Department’s Maintenance and Revitalization of Native Languages Grant administered through the Indian Education Division
- Grant was funded and Jemez began to work on determining language usage amongst the reservation population since Jemez had no factual data on fluency.
- Language fluency among all generations was determined to be 80%
- Jemez has been refunded each year since, to continue its work in Language immersion, curriculum & professional development.
The Pueblo of Jemez, through its continued analysis of the data collected from the Towa Language Interview Survey, led to the establishment of the Jemez Language Program.
- Established a 10 member Jemez Language Team, comprised of Spiritual/Secular Leaders, Elders, Educators & Tribal Members
- Team helps identify the needs and defines strategies to stabilize, maintain, and increase our 80% fluency rate
- Elder, Adult, Youth focus groups provide information & guidance
- Extensive research and analysis continues
- Developed Jemez Language Plan with short & long term goals
- Developed the Jemez K-8thlanguage & Culture Curriculum.
- with the support of all community educators at the Jemez Education Retreats of 2007, 2008 and 2009.
- Initiating Language Immersion Programs – Early Childhood
The Jemez Language Program is a community-based effort supported by Traditional Leadership, Tribal Council, Elders, Schools, Tribal Programs & Tribal Members. Goal is to enhance the program priorities and build initiatives to meet Jemez language needs ensuring the survival & continued vitality of Jemez.
“Every day, when Towa is spoken, you are preserving a language, our culture. When you’ve uttered a word in English to your child, you have given up; you are helping bury sacred assets to be lost forever.”
“Our language, we need to take care of and care for it just as we would take care of an infant child”
“If we lose it, we would no longer be united. A lost culture leads to lost spirits”
We all have with us, in our hearts, a priceless treasure: Our Language, Only in our mother tongue, will we truly be as one, free, Sovereign.
Jemez Education Services
5117 Hwy 4
P.O. Box 100
Jemez Pueblo, NM 87024