For those of you privy to the music of L.L. Cool J, you know how keen that song is and how very fitting and appropriate that “hook” is for a blog title. Yet, as I write this blog, I was not in a black corvette, did not push play and did not play in the sun. C’mon, I was there on official business folks, but having been there many times before, I could claim ownership of that hook.
So as my friend the storyteller generally starts out, and with a certain amount of homage being paid her, I shall begin the same way . . . “what had happened was,” the chief, members of congress and I were summoned at the behest of a very influential group of Osages known as the Northern California Osage, “formed by Osages living in Northern California.” This particular meeting was one of two they have yearly where Osages living in Osage country, travel to northern California, to provide updates concerning mineral shares, pending cases, new Osage congressional legislation, answer questions, talk about community – and the reason why I was there – language.
Two of my coworkers had made the same journey previous, with the exception of the year before due to the ridiculous and quite colossal budget cuts we endured, returned with only positive things to say about their experience. So, we leave for California and for most of us, time on a plane, is time to think.
Sitting in what seems to me to be a small airplane seat, trying not to overflow into Aunt Judy; I think about what type of audience I will encounter and what they want from me? Will I have the answers? Why language? I, of course, was conjuring up all the information I had within my mental Rolodex about our California brother and sisters. All of which became somewhat reality and mostly fiction, as we were all welcomed with open arms into a community that exists quite a ways away from our everyday Osage life, with similar concerns to those of us living “back home.”
Language was last, but certainly not least. Like a breath of fresh air; we took to the stage. We were not at a loss for updates nor were we bashful about announcing our winnings from the annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. Demonstrating how to navigate the Language Web site, generating excitement about our online class, announcing our upcoming events with NVision and the Dhegiha Gathering in August, we held their attention. Our department does not often have the opportunity to present in front of the Chief and members of Congress so this was an especially unique environment for us to present in.
A strong message that was conveyed throughout the presentation, “you are not without.” Meaning: Language is one of a handful of departments whose programs can be accessed by anyone, living anywhere in the world, if you have Internet access. You do not have to live in Pawhuska, Hominy or Fairfax to access the very basics of language because they are available online and for free. Of course, there is nothing like the lived “back home experience” and access to other language speakers but you are not without.
How did it go? Well, we have been invited back for a proposed seminar that would include three days of language instead of one. So did they like it? I know they did.