Bilingual Curriculum among the Northern Arapaho: Oral Tradition, Literacy, and Performance

In this article, the author suggests that “Northern Arapaho language classrooms, led by Native-speaking, traditionally oriented elders, offer perhaps the best example within the culture of how traditional practices of oral performance can be mediated via written materials in such a way that traditional forms and content of knowledge can remain intact.” The author contends that “bilingual educational materials offer a particularly fascinating example of the often-cited Northern Arapaho propensity for creative adaptation and assimilation of Euro-American practices.” The author briefly discusses some particular educational challenges faced by Arapaho students, including the focus on written materials in a culture based on oral performances, a decline in the knowledge of the Arapaho language by younger people, and the effect of state standards and state tests on Arapaho education.

Content Comments 

Although this article focuses on Northern Arapaho language education, many of the author’s key points, such as the Arapaho tradition of oral communication versus written, applies to other American Indian classrooms. The article’s content has its greatest utility in providing background and understanding of the traditions and culture influencing today’s Arapaho literacy curriculum. A fair amount of the reading is dense, and therefore is likely to be of greater utility to researchers rather than to practitioners. However, the article contains nuggets of information helpful to teachers and school leaders. Evidence of effectiveness is reasonable based on original source materials and references, although the article leans somewhat more in the direction of expert opinion than empirically proven hypotheses.