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Education

We Are Idaho: Jordan Broncho

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Jordan Broncho
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My name is Jordan Broncho. I work at Chief Tahgee Elementary. I am a Shoshone language teacher for kindergarten and first grade.

I'm a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and I've lived and worked on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation my whole life.

When I was younger, I don't remember having any kind of Shoshone classes or any kind of Shoshone offered to me. A lot of us, we grew up learning just like a few words here and there, but it just wasn't fluently spoken like all the time.

There’s a lot of the elders that are, when they were kids, they got in trouble for speaking the language from the boarding schools and stuff. And so because of that, there's a lot of people that are scared to use the language now.

So I feel like it's really important that we keep our language alive as much as possible.

I'm able to pray in my own language now. And so I feel closer to our creator. I feel closer to Mother Earth.

I've been studying the Shoshone language for about four years now, continuing to learn every day. There's so much to learn in the language. It's probably going to be a lifelong journey for me to keep learning.

I really got interested in the language when I was working at the elderly nutrition program here in Fort Hall. I was cooking for the elders and I got to sit down with them on a daily basis and I got to ask them questions, you know, how to say certain words and how to say phrases.

I actually have a lot of elders that I still am in contact with that help me out.

When I started sharing the words and phrases that I learned, I would share them on Facebook and a lot of my family and friends ... they really liked it.

So that went on for a while until the principal at Chief Tahgee Elementary got a hold of me and she wanted me to come in and talk to her. And they offered me a job working in one of the Shoshone classes.

I'd never seen myself as a teacher. And when I got offered the job, I was pretty excited about it.

I just enjoy coming to work every day and getting to work with these little kids. They're wonderful to work with. It's fun. Their brains are like sponges.

They're just so smart and they're so eager to learn the language, just as eager as I was when I first started.

They pick up the language quicker than I can teach it.

I think it's really important because our Shoshone and our Bannock language out here in Fort Hall, it's a dying language because of the historical trauma that the Native Americans went through.

There’s the Shoshones and the Bannocks here on the Fort Hall reservation. There are two different languages. The Bannocks come from the Paiutes, and so the Bannock and the Paiute language is very similar. And it’s kind of the same way like how Comanche’s and Shoshoni language is very similar.

You know, the Shoshones, we roamed the whole Northwest. Same with the Bannocks.

Also at the same time, the Bannock and the Shoshone language, from us being on the same reservation, they in some ways came together. There's some words that are similar in Bannock and Shoshone.

Shoshone and Bannock [languages] are just passed down through stories and songs from families … the Language and Culture Program put together an alphabet that they use to make words and make phrases and everything. And so we use that same alphabet at the school.

I think it's really important because our Shoshone and our Bannock language out here in Fort Hall, it's a dying language because of the historical trauma that the Native Americans went through. You know, losing elders and our tribe getting smaller and smaller.

The Chief Tahgee school and the Sho-Ban high school and the early childhood center — they're all trying to use the language and trying to incorporate it into the classrooms as much as possible … to try and turn things around, to try to use the language and make it more common.

I'm able to pray in my own language now. And so I feel closer to our creator. I feel closer to Mother Earth. And I just feel like every day I'm making myself a better person.

Jordan Broncho has also been featured on PBS American Portrait.

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