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Local educator to receive NEA Human and Civil Rights Award

WASHINGTON - June 26, 2009 -

Vida Sue Stabler, the Title VII Indian Education Program director at the Umonhon Nation Public School, is being honored with the National Education Association’s Human and Civil Rights Award. Stabler is being recognized for her work to save and revitalize the culture and language of the Umonhon (Omaha) tribe.

Stabler will receive the NEA Leo Reano Memorial Award at the Association’s 43rd annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner being held in San Diego, Calif., on July 3, 2009.

“Preserving the culture and language of first Americans is an outstanding gift to the nation,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It is very difficult to understand another culture unless you understand the subtle nuances and deep meanings of its language. Once the language is lost, part of the culture is lost and can never be recovered.”

Stabler believes that nothing is more important to the Umonhon children’s success in the wider world than to learn their own culture and language. Everything she does as a teacher is grounded in her community. 

The learning begins with the classroom, which the Umonhon call huthuga, or tribal circle.  Together, Stabler teams with tribal elders who help teach students in grades K–12 the words and ways of their people. 

When not teaching, Stabler works with University of Nebraska language professor Mark Awakuni-Swetland at documenting the Umonhon language and developing specific curriculum materials for teaching the Umonhon language and culture. 

To date, the duo has completed revisions of an expanded Umonhon dictionary and completed a cookbook of traditional Umo “ho” recipes written entirely in the Umonhon language.

Stabler also teaches Umonhon language classes at Nebraska Indian Community College. She consistently encourages “active listeners,” mostly middle-age people who grew up with parents who spoke Umonhon and understand the language, to come forward and learn how to speak the language. Her work was recognized in 2007 when the National Indian Education Association named her their Educator of the Year.

“Being bilingual and multilingual is very important in today’s global society,” Van Roekel said.  “Learning by constant contact with native speakers is a critical step in the learning process. We are proud to honor Vida Sue Stabler for her leadership and her actions in preserving and promoting the Umonhon language.”

The NEA Leo Reano Memorial Award honors Leo Reano, a teacher, artist and interpreter. He was a member of the Santo Domingo Indian Pueblo and served on the All Indian Pueblo Council and the NEA Council on Human Relations. Reano dedicated his life to securing educational opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native children.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Dana Fisher
(202) 262-6769,