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Pawnee Alphabet Book

Writing Pawnee, Rararíhkaruku Paárihkat
Pawnee Language Project, Pawnee Nation

Introduction, by Professor Douglas R. Parks

Pawnee Alphabet BookPawnee Alphabet Book is an introduction to the spelling of the Pawnee language in both of its dialects, Skiri and South Band, the latter spoken by members of the Chawi, Kitkahahki, and Pitahawirata bands. It is one of the products of the Pawnee Language Project awarded to the Pawnee Nation in fall 1997 by the Administration for Native Americans. The purpose of that project, which was a collaborative one between the Pawnee Nation and the American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University, was to prepare curriculum materials for teaching the Pawnee language to secondary-level students as well as adults. The materials that were developed in the course of the project are a one-year language textbook, a one-year set of interactive multimedia language lessons, a student dictionary, and a reader. Together, these materials were designed to enable Pawnee students now and in the future to study their language, especially when there are no fluent elders who can teach them directly. The multimedia lessons, in particular, were designed so that students can hear their language spoken and can learn to speak just as their ancestors did.

The alphabet presented here is one that has developed out of many years of study of the Pawnee language by Douglas R. Parks. That work began in 1965 with the collaboration of many South Band elders who contributed materials for a dictionary, grammar, and collection of traditional stories. Those teachers were Dolly Moore (Pitahawirata), Susie and St. Elmo Jim (Pitahawirata), Philip Jim (Pitahawirata), Harry Cummings (Kitkahahki), Edgar Moore (Kitkahahki), Garland Blaine (Pitahawirata), and Sam Young (Chawi). At that time Skiri elders Harry Mad Bear, Sam Allen, Henry Roberts, and Gerty Clark also contributed to the documentary work. All of those individuals, now deceased, were influential in development of the Pawnee alphabet.

In 1977 and 1978, and then from 1985 until the present, Nora Pratt, an exceptionally knowledgeable speaker, devoted a vast amount of time and effort to the documentation of her Skiri dialect. She is the major source for the Skiri language curriculum materials that are a product of this project. South Band elders working with the Pawnee Language Project were the late Stacy Matthews (Kitkahahki) and Lynn Rice (Pitahawirata). All three individuals sound-recorded the words and sentences in either the Skiri or South Band lessons. To each of these elders we owe a deep debt of gratitude for their many contributions to the perpetuation of their language for future generations of Pawnees.

The Pawnee Language Project was initiated in 1997 during the Pawnee Business Council presidency of Elizabeth Black Owl, for whose support we are thankful. Two other individuals, Charles Lone Chief and Muriel Robedeaux, were also important to the initial planning of the project, as well as in supporting it throughout the funding period, and deserve special thanks. Among the many other individuals who have assisted the program are Marshall Gover, former president of the Pawnee Tribal Business Council, and Dawna Hare, Executive Secretary.

Members of the Pawnee Language Project are Professor Douglas R. Parks (linguist), Adrian Horse Chief (project coordinator from 1997 to summer 2000 and Pawnee language teacher), Dollie Gonzales (project coordinator after summer 2000), Nicole Evans (curriculum developer), and Timothy Howington and William Anderson (dictionary database specialists). Charles Lone Chief drew the illustrations for this book.

To view screenshots from the materials click on the "view lessons" button on the right.

Download the printable version:

The Pawnee Alphabet Book is a part of the Pawnee Language Project and was funded by grant no. 01-90NL005301 from the Administration for Native Americans, Department of Health and Human Services. This publication was written by Douglas R. Parks and was produced at the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington.