The 'thing that thinks fast' is a new way to teach Indigenous languages

Kara Strass, Miami Tribe, demontrating Myaamia language phone app. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages

For Indigenous peoples, language is truly the breath of life. According to the United Nations in its statement declaring 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, “Indigenous language is a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory.”

The National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages celebrated the U.N. declaration by unveiling a remarkable language revitalization and reclamation archival tool this month during workshops at the Myaamia Center on the campus of Miami University in Oxford Ohio. The Indigenous Language Digital Archive or ILDA software offers a means to digitally organize scattered and diverse language archival materials including hand written documents and recordings and allow their contents to be retrieved with a computer key stroke.

Breath of Life is based at the Myaamia Center, a partnership between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University. The center’s mission includes revitalizing and preserving the Miami tribe’s language and culture. The Indigenous Language Digital Archive is based on software created at the Myaamia Center to help in revitalizing the Miami language.

A recent Miami University press release quoted Enna Helms of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, she said "ILDA is a great platform for organizing and making language searchable in a way that is meaningful to indigenous communities.”

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Mary Annette Pember works as an independent journalist focusing on Indian issues and culture with a special emphasis on mental health and women’s health. Winner of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, the USC Annenberg National Health Fellowship and Dennis A. Hunt Fund for health journalism she has reported extensively on the impact of historical trauma among Indian peoples. She has contributed to ReWire.News, The Guardian, and Indian Country Today. An enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Wisconsin Ojibwe, she is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. See more at