A Montana State University senior who investigated the revitalization of tribal languages in Montana will present his research April 29 on Capitol Hill.
Michael Fast Buffalo Horse of Browning, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, was one of 60 students across the country selected by the Council for Undergraduate Research to participate in the annual “Posters on the Hill” celebration. One of more than 800 who applied, he will display a poster about his research and explain his findings to U.S. senators, representatives and others who stop by to visit.
“Languages are dying at an alarming rate, and the languages spoken by the Native American tribes in the United States are especially vulnerable. Of the 300-plus languages that were spoken on this continent before European contact, only half remain,” Fast Buffalo Horse wrote in a project summary. “The tribal languages of Montana’s Indigenous nations were harshly suppressed historically through restrictive governmental policies, cultural prejudices and forced assimilation.”
To conduct his research, Fast Buffalo Horse examined the historical reasons that the languages became endangered and why preserving them is such a daunting task. He also interviewed tribal educators and visited Montana reservations so he could present the human side of tribal language revitalization and maintenance. His mentor on the project was Jioanna Carjuzaa, associate professor of education, long-time researcher of indigenous languages and recent recipient of one of the nation’s top awards for commitment to and excellence in multicultural education – the G. Pritchy Smith Multicultural Educator of the Year Award.
“These languages are vital to the continued existence of these peoples, their cultures and the unique perspectives that they can offer to the rest of the world,” Fast Buffalo Horse said. “… It is our hope that our research can offer a more complete look at Montana’s tribal history in the face of a rapidly changing future.”
Carjuzaa nominated Fast Buffalo Horse for the opportunity to present his research in Washington, D.C., and will accompany him to the nation’s capital.
“I thought he had a good chance of being selected, so I recommended him,” she said.
Fast Buffalo Horse, who is majoring in secondary education, is one of MSU’s McNair Scholars. As such, he participates in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and designed to prepare first generation, low-income and underrepresented undergraduate students for success in graduate school. Fast Buffalo Horse is also a pow wow dancer who specializes in the traditional Blackfeet Chicken Dance. He recently danced in the 39th annual American Indian Council Pow Wow at MSU.
After graduating from MSU this fall, Fast Buffalo Horse said he plans to pursue a doctorate in history or education with the ultimate goal of becoming a faculty member in higher education.
While in Washington, D.C, Fast Buffalo Horse and Carjuzaa will participate in a meeting at the White House and a private tour of the National Museum of American Indians. The White House meeting was arranged with Bill Mendoza, an MSU alumnus who was mentored by Carjuzaa. Mendoza is the executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.