Luce Indigenous Fellowship recipients to be awarded next week, Wind River resident to be recognized

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 12:39 AM CDT
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FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -

The Luce Indigenous Fellowship was created in 2019 to promote leadership in Native American communities. This year there were 450 applicants that were narrowed down to 13 people across the United States. One of them is Reba Jo Teran, an Eastern Shoshone tribal member from the Wind River Indian Reservation. She earned her Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Utah State University in Logan, UT, with the intent to preserve the Shoshone language with her education.

Since 2002, Teran has been working to preserve the Shoshone language not only for locals including students at Fort Washakie School, but for people all around the country. She was nominated for the fellowship by Lynette St. Clair, the Indian Education Director at Fort Washakie School. However, Lynette isn’t the first person that Reba has impacted, with her proficient work within her first language, Shoshone.

Teran described some of her first experiences learning another language. She said, “When I first went to 1st grade, that was at six years old, but I only spoke Shoshone, I didn’t know English at all. A little girl in front of me, her name is Joette Thayer, she knew English and she would turn around and help me. Today I’m teaching her Shoshone because she’s a Shoshone teacher so it reversed, now I’m teaching her.” Thayer is also Eastern Shoshone, and works at Fort Washakie as a Shoshone Language teacher.

Since so much has been passed down orally, and less people are speaking the language, getting it into print was very important. Teran explained, “What was really neat in 2012, my Ute sister Maggie Tohannie, she helped me create a font on the font creator software. In my video I described the concept was my idea; it was an elongated e, and the o was elongated for the long a. Our language is like the French language, it’s nasal.”

Reba and her older sister Beatrice Haukaas, who is a Shoshone tribal elder, have been working together since 2002, with Beatrice speaking, and Reba recording the words for preservation.

Haukaas gave an example of why she loves the descriptive quality of the Shoshone language, “Like you’d say oh that guy was walking down the road and he really fell, and he made the dust fly. If we said it in Shoshone, it would be really comical. You could actually see him, you know, so that’s what I like about our language, it’s really humorous I guess I could say.”

Michael Roberts, the president and CEO of First Nations, which the LUCE fellowship is under, said all 13 finalists are equally amazing, but he interviewed Reba and was impressed by her tenacity.

Roberts stated, “Someone like her who has spent their lifetime categorizing and recording her language, over 20,000 dictionary entries, over 7,000 recordings with elders, has created her own font for the language, just pretty spectacular stuff. She’s a pretty amazing person having done this uncompensated, for so long just because she felt it was important for her community to have this knowledge retained.”

Teran gave an example of what it would sound like to hear the Shoshone language spoken. Teran stated, “I will say (Shoshone words....) What I said was me and my sister, older sister, we’ve been taking care of our language.”

The press release regarding the Luce Fellowship Awardees will be announced next week, where Reba will be officially recognized.

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