Hoocak Academy - Highlighting Hoocak Language Learners: Dana Kinser

By Dana Kinser

     I was born first daughter during Corn Tasseling Moon 1961 at Round Rock, now known as Janesville, Wisconsin. My naani Helen Whitehorse was born third daughter, seventh of eight children of Ralph and Anne GreenCrow Little Soldier Whitehorse. 

     I come from people who loved race cars. My teegas, Walter and Harry Whitehorse, both owned race cars. My father drove Teega Walter on the weekends then they worked all week and traveled to different places, mostly around the Midwest. That is also how he met my naani. We followed the races and eventually my naani moved my three brothers and me to Indiana. 

     After college, in 1982, I married a professional racecar driver and moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I still live with my husband. We traveled around the United States and Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand for over 40 years before retirement. 

     My Hoocak language journey began long ago as my Kaaka was my first teacher.  I treasure those early childhood memories. Lucky for me, I got to visit and stay with her.  Those times were too short as we started moving and traveling.  I LOVED being close to her. She would talk to me a lot, which is great for a young child. Little did I know she was teaching me, and as children, what sponges we are! 

     I especially liked when relatives visited, which was a lot. I remember her laughing with them, speaking in Hoocak, and laughing again.  They were always doing things and speaking Hoocak, like bringing supplies to craft baskets and laughing. Sometimes she made me moccasins. Most of the time, when there was company, they would be beading and speaking Hoocak. That is how I remember it. I ask her to teach me to speak right, and she laughed but that was the beginning of my learning journey. 

     Learning the language is a way of being connected to our ancestors. It’s a way for me to stay connected to my Kaaka. My Kaaka participated in the translation of the language so it could survive. All those that did so have blessed us.  Those that continue to do this work continue to bless us.   I think learning the language is a way of honoring our relatives. The opportunities that are available to each and every one of us, this access to learn allows us as a nation to not only survive but to thrive to move forward as a people and to be part of this process.  I want to be part of that.

     Today I am lucky enough to spend time with my grandchildren, and I use Hoocak with them. Their ability to retain the language is incredible, but I know from my own journey if you do not use it you can lose it.  Since the language classes have come online I have participated. I am encouraged by all the opportunities out there I see the Hoocak Nation prospering I hope all of my relatives will want to be part of that?