A qualitative study of the impact Oneida language learning has on the preservation of Oneida culture

Toni M. House
School of Human Services, Capella University
September, 2010


The United States history reflects detrimental policies and initiatives that have threatened the survival and/or health of many indigenous languages and cultures. The Oneida Nation is one of the many indigenous nations that have been influenced by such actions. This participatory action research targeted 7 to 10 Oneida Nation High School graduates from selected graduating classes to explore the impact Oneida language learning (OLL) has on the preservation of the Oneida culture. It also explored what values and benefits emerged from learning the Oneida language, and what motivated the graduates to learn the Oneida language while attending the Oneida Nation High School. The research was a qualitative, phenomenological research investigation utilizing the participatory action research strategy of photovoice to enable participants to reflect and plan how to share their findings with the community and policymakers. This study may provide an initial benchmark for future studies highlighting native language and cultural preservation, maintenance, and revitalization with Oneida adolescents. The findings may also be helpful in encouraging and educating young people, community members, and Oneida Nation planners of the importance of participating and supporting indigenous language learning for adolescents. This study may also serve as a model for gathering information within indigenous communities regarding how to increase buy-in for indigenous language preservation. This study may have been a critical step in identifying the resources and methods necessary in the future success of OLL and cultural maintenance, preservation and revitalization.