The University of New Mexico’s College of University Libraries project is working to preserve the Zuni language and culture by using modern digital technology.
The Zuni Language Materials Collection (ZLMC) is comprised of materials donated by the Zuni Public School District to UNM in 2016. According to their website it is a digitized platform used to support Zuni language learners in the community, Zuni Pueblo and schools, as well as the UNM community.
Arin Peywa is a member of the Zuni Pueblo and a UNM secondary education and English major. She was hired by the library and funded by the Zuni: Engaging Teachers and Community Program (ZETAC). This program provided funding to have the language materials scanned and digitized, Peywa said.
“It is a great way to show the world, or to show to the outsiders, we want to keep our Zuni language alive,” Peywa said.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation funds ZETAC and its partnerships with the Zuni Public School District (ZPSD), Pueblo of Zuni and UNM to increase the number of Zuni tribal members who teach in ZPSD, according to their page on UNM College of Education website.
Peywa digitizes the donated material to help preserve the Zuni language because she said a lot of the Zuni youth do not speak the language.
“With these materials, people outside of Zuni can actually access these materials. I digitize the materials, I scan them, I put them in the database, I make the metadata, I get help from other Zuni language teachers to translate the materials,” Peywa said.
Peywa said the bilingual department is located on the Zuni reservation and it is hard for people outside of Zuni or members who do not live there to have access to them.
“It is important that they are digitized and made into this collection to where everyone can have access to it and everyone can print it, download it, save it because these materials are meant for the community,” Peywa said.
In the ZLMC, one can search an English word and the collection will take you to the translated Zuni word. Peywa said this is a tool for both teachers and students.
Also working on the project is Sarah Kostelecky, a member of Zuni Pueblo and an education librarian for the College of University Libraries & Learning Sciences. She also serves on the advisory board for ZETAC.
“I think it’s showing the community that we respect this material, we know it has important information in it that’s important to us, that (it) makes us who we are,” Kostelecky said.
The ZLMC is housed under the UNM Libraries New Mexico Digital Collections, which uses the metadata that Peywa has created to act as a search portal for digital collections about New Mexico.
Kostelecky said she saw the needed to support Zuni students at UNM who are taking classes to become teachers.
With the help of the grant, the goal of the project is aimed to support Zuni educators in Zuni schools and to provide students with resources, from their perspectives, for academic standards, Kostelecky said.
“That’s important to me and my work, to support my home community and here at main campus, support any Native students,” Kostelecky said.
Alyssa Bitsie is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Albitsie.