An Interview with Tammie Hunt – Education Director for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
By Brittany Palmer
tapʰoytʰa, (Takelma – to prosper, to be blessed)
Tammie Hunt has worked with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians for over two years. Her work initially focused on reaching out to high-school kids to prepare them for post-secondary education and she still currently runs 13 different programs to support that work. She was then asked to sit on the South Central Oregon Early Learning Hub.
“That opportunity gave me so much more awareness of what is out there and how we need to begin working with our tribal leaders,” she said. “Once I started working with the Hub, I realized that we really need to look where we can to help our early learners so that they can get to that post-secondary education.”
As a result of the increased focus on early learning, Tammie recently collaborated with tribal elders to complete a board book called, “Takelma Together.” The book is designed for early learners and their families to learn about the Cow Creek culture together. This book directly supports one of Tammie’s goal as the Education Director to make the Tribal language available to all members of the Tribe.
The project was supported by an Early Learning Literacy grant the South Central Oregon Early Learning Hub was awarded. “That was a realization to me that we can put board books into the hands of early learners and begin working with them and their family very early to promote and support their education,” Tammie said.
Additional grants have added to the Cow Creek Tribe’s focus on revitalizing their language and culture department with a focus on early learning. Tammie expanded on this saying, “Cow Creek was a lost culture. The best way to revitalize the language is to put the language into the hands of early learners. We decided to make it really specific for our tribe and help them learn their language.”
“I presented an idea and a mockup of what we wanted to create to the South Central Oregon Early Learning Hub — the interest was humongous. Tribal Elders illustrated the book using original artwork and paintings. The cover of the book is a bird which is a symbol that we’ve now put on t-shirts and bags for our Culture Camps as well.” Tammie mentioned that the project has been well-accepted by the Elders in the community and that they had a lot of fun working on the artwork in the book.
Tammie explained that the Cow Creek language was a language built out of necessity, and the book uses words that are important to the Cow Creek community. The book includes words in the native language for counting numbers, animals, and terms for family.
“We chose animals that were easy to say and draw such as ‘Bear’, ‘Turtle’, ‘Fox’, ‘Eagle’. Other words that are important to the language that were included are ‘House’, ‘Sun’, ‘Moon’, and ‘Mountain’. We also may record sounds to go along with these books for pronunciation assistance. We may have the tribal leaders say the words in English and also in their language and those CDs with the sounds would come with the books,” Tammie explained.
Tammie mentioned that they plan to use these books as birth presents to many members of the tribe as many live outside of Oregon. She plans to produce the book in a paperback format and then also send them out as Christmas presents to each tribal member’s household.
When asked if she feels like this project has elevated the importance of early learning in the community, Tammie answered, “Absolutely. We have a financial support for our Youth with the Youth Education Program which helps offset parental costs from ages 3-18. There is also a Youth Activities Committee with six to eight activities each year but there wasn’t something specifically geared directly towards early learning. This really opened everyone’s eyes that kids can still be kids and still be prepared so that they are successful as they enter Kindergarten.”
“This was going to be a small project and then the excitement just grew! I am so excited to see the children walk around during Culture Camp with the trademark bird on their shirt. It’s going to become the logo for our literacy program. We are proud and so happy to pass this on to future generations.”
Tammie anticipates that the both the paperback and the hardback version of the book will be printed this June.