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Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair to be held virtually, focus on ‘Healing Generations Through Language’

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Native American Youth Language Fair

The Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair will be held virtually beginning April 5. 

The Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, held annually at the Sam Noble Museum, will be virtual this year due to COVID-19. 

The fair’s mission is to honor Native American languages and cultures, according to the museum’s website. All students learning Native languages are encouraged to partake in the event. The fair consists of presentations from students, including poster art, spoken poetry and film. Submissions must emphasize native language use, and the use of props and costumes is also encouraged. 

The 2021 theme of the fair is “Generations Healing Through Language,” according to a press release. 

“This year has been especially hard with the passing of so many speakers (of Native languages), which is why our theme is ‘Healing Generations Through Language.’ We want to help everyone stay hopeful in difficult times,” said Raina Heaton, the assistant curator of the Native American Languages Collection at the Sam Noble Museum. 

Native American communities have been affected by COVID-19 with a death rate of “nearly twice the rate of white people,”  according to the New York Times. Heaton said these losses include two elders close to the fair, Vera Tims and Viola Zumwalt. 

“Last year we were forced to cancel because OU's COVID guidelines came into effect just a few weeks before the Fair,” Heaton said. “We have had a year to work with our advisory board and museum programming to come up with a way to hold the Fair without endangering anyone.”

To participate, students in grades K-12 can submit filmed performances or photographed material online through the registration portal located on the Sam Noble Museum’s website. 

There are typically 12 submission categories, but due to the virtual format of the event, book and essay submissions are not being accepted. More information about submission guidelines can be found here

Submissions will be assessed by a panel of judges. Judges are typically Native language speakers and educators and are sometimes specialists in certain fields such as poetry or art, according to the museum’s website.

Submissions are judged by a panel of Native speakers and educators based on a variety of criteria, including amount of Native language use, creativity, poise of performance and spirit, according to the museum’s website. 

Registration closes March 1, and submissions are due by March 5, according to the press release. Submissions will begin streaming on the Sam Noble Museum’s Youtube channel on April 5 and will end April 30. Viewing instructions and other information such as links will be posted on the Sam Noble Museum’s website in March. 

“We are very excited to be able to continue to celebrate Native languages and provide a platform for our language learners to showcase their accomplishments,” Heaton said. 

Contact the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair staff at or call (405) 325-7588 with questions.

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