The SLI Team at the St. Paul Civic Center

By far the best part of my WAYK summer was getting to work with the local team on St. Paul Island. Our group was a lot of fun because we had so many high school students and rising college freshmen working with us on the project. The last time I was around so many high schoolers was two years ago when I was one myself – it was a bit surreal. We never actually divided the team into the two separate age groups, but if we had I’m not sure whether I would have ended up at the kids’ or the grown ups’ table. Before the mysterious foot injury of 2015, Robyn and I even went to the high school weight room with Janette a few times.


Naomi Brings a Treat to the WAYK HouseWe had other chances to bond with the local team, like the time Naomi brought us apple fritters at Robyn’s gentle (and not at all nagging) request, or the time her cousin Kiana came over with fry bread after a day at the Civic Center (I think our new friends discovered the key to our hearts was food). As Robyn discussed a bit in her post about food and language’s wonderful connection, we also had a rising high school freshman, Sonia, over during breakfast a few mornings, who got to witness us trying out some breakfast table language. Another great part of working with the local team was getting to know Anna, who is only two years older than me and already has quite a bit of experience in the classroom.

Robyn, Casey, and Sonia


We’d only been on St. Paul for just over two months, but we befriended so many people from the island as well as our visitors from the region who joined the project. As much as we talk about how language revitalization works when I’m in linguistics classes at home, it took coming here and meeting the real people who are doing the work to see that it takes a community for a project like this to be a success. I hate to go full-mush on you, casual blog readers, but here’s my takeaway from the summer, which I don’t think I would have gotten on my own: good language work starts and ends with the people doing it.

Post authored by Casey.

Written by Evan Gardner