Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair

About The Fair

On the first Monday and Tuesday of April each year, the Native American Language department of the Sam Noble Museum hosts the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. Hundreds of pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade Native American language students participate in judged written and oral performance categories that celebrate the use of native languages in traditional and modern ways. Started in 2003 by former Native American Language curator Mary Linn, Ph.D, the fair provides native language learners an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments. The fair supports individual and community goals in language maintenance, revitalization and renewal in these ways:

  • Excellence in language teaching: In preparing for the fair, students and teachers have concrete goals to work toward in their language classes. In addition, the fair provides students and teachers with peer support and new ideas for language learning. The languages have new life with new speakers.
  • Creating better students: Multiple educational studies show that students in Native language programs perform as well as or better than their peers on academically rigorous tasks.
  • Instilling pride: Educational studies show that children in Native language programs have higher self-esteem and cultural pride and ultimately have stronger relationships with adults and their communities.
  • Creating a Community of Speakers: The fair introduces students to a community of language learners and speakers like themselves. Turning back years of shame associated with language use, the fair helps give prestige and prominence to the learning and speaking of Native languages.
  • Culturally appropriate assessment: Public speaking has always been a highly-regarded part of Native life. The fair creates a safe and supportive environment for students to use their languages and receive feedback.
  • Support of Literacy and the Arts: The fair underscores the value of written and oral literacy, and helps to produce the next generation of writers, storytellers and artists in Native communities.
  • Transition to higher education: The fair brings Native students into the museum and the University of Oklahoma, many for the first time, and welcomes them into an academic environment.
  • Public awareness: The fair increases the public’s awareness of language diversity and its contribution to Oklahoma’s rich cultural heritage.

The first language fair (2003) attracted almost 200 students and teachers to participate in three categories: Poster Art, Spoken Language and Song with Language. The 2015 Fair featured twelve categories:

  • Poster Art
  • Spoken Language
  • Modern and Traditional Song
  • Comics & Cartoons
  • Books & Literature
  • PowerPoint® Presentation
  • Advocacy Essay
  • Film & Video
  • Spoken and Written Poetry
  • Master Performers

The 2015 Fair

The 2015 Language Fair marked the 13th anniversary of the event and drew some 2,700 visitors over two days to observe the work of 1,166 student participants from 90 different tribal, public school, community and family language teaching programs performed in 43 languages. Over 150 live performances and over 360 material submissions filled the program for this year’s fair (total of 514 entries). More than 80 judges, volunteers and staff supported the planning and operation of the fair. This year’s theme was “Language in Our Future,” which led many students to consider the role of Native language in the contemporary world; cell phones, computers, spaceships and robots decorated many of the Poster Art submissions.

Sponsorship for the 2015 fair was provided by the Sac and Fox Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the OU Department of Anthropology - Native American Languages Program, OU Department of Native American Studies and University Silkscreen.

2016 Fair

The 2016 Fair will be held on Monday, April 5 and Tuesday, April 6, 2016.  Information regarding registration and volunteering for the 2016 Fair will be posted on the ONAYLF website in late 2015.