It may not be the official language of Kootenai County, but Coeur d’Alene is the original language.
Now, it’s going to be taught here.
A course in the tribal language will be offered next fall at the Lewis-Clark State College center, director Rodney Frey said Friday.
“Particularly in light of the recent wisdom of our county commissioners, I thought it was worth announcing,” Frey said.
He was referring to the commission’s resolution making English the official language of Kootenai County. Some people fear that will add to the area’s reputation as a place unfriendly to ethnic minorities.
Enrollment in the twice-weekly language class will be limited to 20. Frey expects to have no trouble filling the seats.
“It’s a wonderful way to not only learn about indigenous people, but to get to know your neighbors,” he said.
Along with the language, students will learn about Indian culture.
Frey, a professor of social sciences, said the class will be especially helpful to social work students.
The class will be taught by Ray Brinkman, a doctoral candidate from the University of Chicago; and by Lawrence Nicodemus, an 87-year-old Coeur d’Alene tribal member.
Nicodemus wrote a dictionary of the fast-disappearing Coeur d’Alene language. That has helped the language gain important academic standing.
At LCSC, the Coeur d’Alene language course is the equivalent of courses in Spanish, French or German. Credits are transferable to other colleges.
“Most languages that have that status come out of a written, European tradition. This (language) comes out of an oral tradition,” Frey said.
“We’ve had a wonderful partnership with the Coeur d’Alene tribe,” he added.
A dozen LCSC students who live on the tribal reservation began studying the language last year at DeSmet.
The tribe already had been requiring its employees to study the language. That followed a 1994 survey showing that only 10 tribal members were fluent, and all of them were elderly.
LCSC expects to turn the yearlong language course over to North Idaho College in fall 1998. That’s because the Lewiston-based school normally offers only graduate classes in Coeur d’Alene, Frey said.