Highlighting Ho-Chunk Language Learners: Randall Blackdeer ll

By Kaili Berg

     Language is history, language is life, and language is the cultural health of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Fewer than 30 first language or eminent speakers are left.

     Randall Blackdeer ll (Naatisak), Veterans Service Officer at the Ho-Chunk Nation, started taking an interest in Ho-Chunk language when he was in head start with his teacher Irene Thundercloud.

     “When I came home with new words and phrases I got a lot of positive reinforcement from my parents and grandparents so that really helped reinforcing me wanting to learn more language,” said Blackdeer.

     When Blackdeer was younger, he attended Orville Greendeer’s language camp for three years, where he learned a lot more about the language and culture. After, Blackdeer received a pretty good foundation of language, and was hired as a language apprentice in 2014, where he was teamed up with an elder speaker to learn more. Finally, he became a language instructor for high school students.

     “I keep myself learning still because the critical state that the language is in, with so few speakers left, really encourages me to keep going,” said Blackdeer.

     Blackdeer still teaches on his own, and his goals are to be able to speak in the lodges. Blackdeer is willing to help people out with their language learning. You can contact Blackdeer at randall.blackdeer@gmail.com.

     “The more people we get who want to learn the language and fight to keep our language alive, the better chance we have. Encourage each other,” said Blackdeer.