Northern Arapaho culture and language camp is this weekend

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Committed to the restoration and revival of the Arapaho language, a pair of organizations is hosting the first Northern Arapaho Language and Culture Camp August 15-16.

Geared to tribal members aged 8 through adults, the camp, which will be located along the river bottom below the Wind River Hotel and Casino, utilizes storytelling, tipi construction, traditional games, song and crafts to immerse participants in the Arapaho language, explained organizer Steve Fast Horse. The free camp is also open to anyone interested in tribal cultures.

During the two-day-long camp, which begins at 8 a.m., participants move between a series of culturally based sessions intended to immerse them in the Northern Arapaho language, culture and values, he said. Complimentary breakfast and lunch is provided both days by the Wind River Hotel & Casino.

Fast Horse, coordinator of the Northern Arapaho Language Revitalization and Cultural Preservation Organization, said the camp is the group’s first major undertaking to maintain tribal language and customs. The group is joined by the Northern Arapaho Elders Language and Culture Council in developing the curriculum for the inaugural camp which is taught by a large group of teachers and elders.

Fast Horse said of the almost 10,000 Arapaho people on the Wind River Reservation, only about 70, mostly elderly tribal members, speak the language fluently. These camps have been known to “make a difference for younger people,” he said.

This is the first large-scale language camp held on the reservation in years, which according to Fast Horse had been previously available to youth. “Back in the ’80s, these camps were huge,” he recalled. Fast Horse is working with Eugene “Snowball” Ridgely, Jr. and others, who developed the curriculum for past language and culture efforts.

Fast Horse is encouraging parent participation in the camp. He said while children in reservation schools are exposed to tribal language and culture, the instruction isn’t sustainable if it is not used in the home by parents and other family members.

Directional signs will be posted on Highway 789 just south of the casino for entrance to the camp. For more information, contact Fast Horse at (307) 840-5772 or Ridgely at (307) 840-4494.

–Provided by Carolyn Aanestad, on behalf of County10 Community Partner Wind River Hotel and Casino