Main Street, Wyoming; Pius Moss, Arapaho Language, Culture, and History Teacher
This. Program made possible by a grant from us energy and Crested Butte corporation part of a family of companies in the mining and minerals business providing jobs for Wyoming people since 1966. Does make talk. That's a stumbling version of an Arapaho greeting. It's been said that a different
language offers you a different personality and that the decline of a language may signal the decline of a community or a nation. With me today is an Arapahoe elder who has devoted much of his life to reviving and teaching his people their native tongue. Pius Moss is also a former rancher a famed storyteller and the recent recipient of the central Wyoming college medallion of honor. Welcome to Main Street pious. Like many people I think fail to recognize just how significant language can be and they may say to themselves one language is as good as another. And I think I'd like to address that to you. Why Arapaho In addition or instead of English. I believe that learning a language or having a language creates an identity with an individual. You can say I'm an Arapahoes if he can speak the language. So that's where the difference comes in. He can learn to speak.
Eventually you say that but a Down and Out thought there is to be able to speak when you're saying that. So there's quite a lot of people would like to learn the language for what you have to use it but just learned it not you did it at the time. And that's why I have my people the little one I insist on a parrot to reinforce in the language what they learn in school. It has no place in the classroom. You've got to be at home. You'd be shocked at the way you were doing it. No good. Well now you grew up on the Wind River Reservation speaking the language in your home but in the school you weren't allowed to speak up and that's the brainwashing that we've got thus far. I'm not
speaking to rap or period. Was this at St. Stephen's school. Yes. Even in school that you went there. Preach and I'm talking about that graduates of those years. Not about that. They are. Now they might say it talking about the priest. No no not that those people at that time signed a contract to try to abolish the language and President Jackson gave the order make them necessarily you will do whatever you want. Just stop the language speak. Go. They did what they were ordered. And what did they do were you punished when you spoke up. Yes they punished very severely brutally. I would say and so thorough brainwashing they give us that I didn't read
it to my kid or in being afraid that someone is there to keep me from teaching my children what is a good thing that a grandmother that she's the one that opened up the avenue and grandmother a patient and the oldest one spoke it perfectly the oldest daughter of mine and the next two they speak to understand whatever is being said. What other conversation did the boys get kind of peach meal. So that was my granddaughter. Her mom is teaching her she's trying and her mom my youngest son's wife. She knows our language really well. So the Cheyanne language and you teach your grandchildren Arapahoes said the one I now have at home they speak the language to a
certain extent but the little one four years old I understand all a command but she hasn't spoken Arapahoes yet and I hope to see that day when that happens that something will snap. I think in our mind that will permit her to speak. Now this is something of a revival of the language in that it skipped a generation of that generation where you didn't feel comfortable speaking Arapaho to your children now your grandchildren are in fact being taught Arapahoe. Maybe speaking more with their grandparents. Yes. What kind of a difference is this making in the life of the reservation in your community. Well there's more to that than just fan. There's a different there's a vast difference as far as the language is concerned because it ties in with the culture and without one or the other you don't have it. And there's so many things connected with the rap
culture and language that you just have to be there to be whole complete and a person just can't say I speak up or what I don't care about that no it won't work in the language and culture go together. I've heard you tell a story and after you've told a perfectly good story in English say but it's better in Arapahoe. Yes. And I think that points to the idea that there are things you can say in Arapahoe that you really can't say in English. Yes. Just to illustrate the thought here. If my granddaughter wants a drink of water and grandma just don't have time yet. But the child and then the grandmother responds finally and she'll say OK I'll go get you
a glass of water if you don't say that all she has to say is thebaine. That means go and I will be there to get you a drink of water. Seven or eight. So it does a lot of areas of our language that are that way. You can say just a few words or just say to sound you you've got just like a man came to the school on a workshop. Mr. Solomon the one that developed the language he worked on the Arapaho alphabet. He worked on around for alphabet and this man was from ECD. OK. He come in to me and him and a couple other what we'd do for the rest of the people. I said when did you hear of Salsman come in.
No not yet. I heard he was coming here at this time of things. He had just that one word not enough I explained to you all he heard. Well know it's it you rich that way. And what do you think the language the survival of the language means for the younger people members of the tribe. I think if they understand the language that it would stop a lot of this and I'm sorry to say that they opened up maybe an avenue again I don't know. Hanging up like that if they understand which I know a lot of them don't. They have to go through instruction in everything like Gupton the value that they live by. They don't know and respect all that is in there.
If we had no respect for the values that mean nothing and our beliefs are the same way. The belief that I have a large. My mom is concerned. She took a metal arc dressed it out baked it looked like little turkey and she took a piece of the bread told me to put it in my mouth cured and swallowed. But before you swallow does that say that you will speak well and this is when you were just a child. This is just when I was a child he passed on when I was five. And this all happened because they were instructed early. They became men and women 13 years old they were able to marry. So
not that different. Now we live on 18 to try 18. You're an adult. The State. I don't know I don't think it held at 19 to be able to go into a bar and have a drink. Twenty one is going hairiest part of state and the federal government didn't get it. So but before you were five your mother gave you part of a meadowlark to eat eat. And before you turn to does that mean for you to say that you will do things or speak well. I did see that you will speak well and I like to talk. I believe in that belief. Then my dad had a one told. And they don't bite you or nothing. And the way they fight you they just blow up and they go. Nothing again. But all the time slime comes out
from porridge or what. And again while you're fooling with it again it blows up back and forth like that. So he told me to tie a red rag around her neck. And when you're finished you sit before you turn it loose on the ground say that you will do things well and that's the way I am and I believe in that belief because I do things well and I speak well. So the belief is there. And in a sense you speak with the voice of the meadowlark I take it. Well the Rob holds here are the metal on the Cheyanne here the metal. And just recently heard the crow speak. You know here that Meadowlark and I don't know about the Black feet whether they do or not but the meadowlark we hear him he refers to incident in
the home. Maybe the man is kind of cross that his wife or that lady is kind of on her behavior not just right toward her husband. There's a corollary awat and that's what the meadowlark will tell you and you follow the chirping of the metal arc you'll come up with advice or information of that nature. That man is. He gets mad easier or that or that women get mad easy like that. You know. Yeah. So I'd like to ask you to do something that you're well known for and that is to tell a story and I hope you won't mind telling at least one story in English and maybe another one in Arapahoes. Well a short story is very short but not short enough. But if you don't mind that maybe
another three minute here or here we've got lots of time. OK. Yeah. There were horses that were stolen and they're up all can and the thought there is to go get the horses back that were stolen. All right. The people were delegated to get the horses back. They left. And these two little boys. Well I would say Boyd but there are men then 13 and 14 there are men able to take care of the family. That's the training that they got early. So these men were gone then these two little boys there were orphans to begin with an old lady and her daughter took them in. They said you will be living with us I'll be your
grandmother and she will be my your end. That's for the daughter. So that those that relationship they help her with your homework and tough luck. And all of a sudden it bore on these two young men that the horses were stolen so they had to help. So they prepared to help that one horse. So they rode double on it horses and they rode two circles around a camp and there were sand where we are going we may not come back and we're going to try and get the horse's back. That the help that we're going to give the elder so as they then the storm and the old lady in there and fall on backup. So when they finished the song it took off and when it got to the place where the people
were kind of a disadvantage there was a little dip there and that's where they all work. But the enemy tribe was up on a hill rock and stuff like that. They were well-concealed. So the boys told the elders there that we'd come to help the best we we know how we will ride in the area where they are let them shoot at us. Let them expend their animation that doing minicon ammunition. Maybe two or three cartridges that you created them for a boat ride or something like that. So anyway. They were told to get down off their horse because they might. Are you sure that you don't want to horse got arrested. He said well we're going now we're going to ride double going to the area and which they did. They went full circle through the area.
A lot of shooting took place. And then when they come out again both were still on the horn. So they come wrested the horses and they had this value that they were doing and individual freedom. You didn't dare say that enough now that you might get hurt. No. So when the horse left it they went again the same way. A lot of shooting going on up there. When they come through one rider is gone you got caught and that didn't say one of you is hurt now. So no more. They didn't dare tell you that because they knew that the young man had practiced or freedom of you know being an individual for the third time young man went out when the
horse came into view again. He was still on it. And then he rested down. Then he went again the fourth time. This time the horse rider no rider on it. So they had to make the supreme sacrifice of helping out in that manner. So that's the story. Yeah. Do you find stories like that that I presume you have learned from your antecedents that have been passed down. Yes. Do you find that they exist similar stories in other tribes and other traditions. I don't know. I don't think I heard any other tribal story from another tribe. It's always been a rebel with me you know and you know like God. And they they tell you something you know the story. Did you have a particularly strong storyteller in your family who taught you the art of
storytelling because it did. What was the storyteller. And most of your stories come from Him. They got it from my parents and always that night. The stories were told never during the day. And if he wanted to know if he was asleep he'd stop with the story. Now Navy heard the word he used to say what that meant you continued to story. All right. Maybe after ten minutes or so you didn't hear the word he then you would hear a whole chorus from throughout the house of little voices saying hey no one is awake. Did didn't say he you do say. Yeah. Anyway that's the way they controlled the sleep in and of the day. Right. And I've tried it in the little boy
from first grade second grade and it worked nighttimes towards work. That none us is out there at the mission trying to get the kids to sleep but you can do it. So she called me and I told them a story which you to you on and on or in person and they were all asleep. So it has it's magic that way. Yeah. That happens when I tell stories too but not for the same reason. But anyway that they have a lot of meaning to the story. And I don't know that I shall tell them. Back and forth maybe in a month two or three times the same story. And each time that happens it's a good story. They just get there just in awe Oh you and I just.
And do you tell the stories to the little ones in Arapahoes or in English. I tell them in English and it's hard to give the punch. Know when you want it. Do you think in Arapaho and translate when you speak English is that the way. Yeah. So I feel that way would you would you like to try telling a story now in Arapahoes which of course a lot of viewers won't understand but at some will. And those of us who don't there's a musicality to the language that I think we'd enjoy if we're willing to do that. Just tell us a short story in Arapahoe I need. Know I'll give it. He will. Who know it was a center. Pasta or nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. That's all I know. And they don't know.
Don't know why they thought not. Well who do I not know who gets the job. They're not gonna fix Coba you are going all out on our own. Why am I a little. I wanted to cut. Gonna call it I can if not I don't know. No I'm not a witch. I only got that Inhofe upby fiance and I have no money as to what they know. I know in my heart I know that not Kenny. Hey don't go all high and not.
I say I don't. Of course none. My wife does not Neuharth on the phone to us saying that she cannot attend and I got be the first time I can say that God knows anything. Why need you guys. When I had the gall not to have seen her and I said no we need it. I have asked the high. Way Kokanee you when I could get I can do that not me. I'm not done. I just don't know would finish if you got the right knee pay or not.
I know I am not done on my. Hi how are you. And then on the. I say no all that needs it. I'm not going to ask you to retell the whole story in English but I notice when you tell the story in Arapahoe you do much more with your hands. Yet you show more as you speak. So do tell us tell us what some of the characters were in that story. We have a sense there was a white man all the stored up all referred to the white man because he was completely different from the rabbit hole. He respected nothing. All he wanted for material wealth and the rabble had a lot respect for his family and all the
law. He didn't speak to his mother in law and the respect was so strong that when you read his wife parent the mother would come out to stay away while he visited the husband and then same way the other way the mother in law treated her daughter. Then the man would leave all that to respect and that's why the Arap who like to start with a white man and the white man run into a bunch of elk and told him that I hear you're a good runner that I'm fat do you so maybe we'll have a race to see who is faster. Let's find out. So they agreed to run the race and he
said. But when you come to that clump of brush with all your eyes and don't open them whatever you do don't open them. So then they started to get nip and tuck until they got to the point where it would close by the white man stopped a little bit. All hell fell over the cliff and. He had a lot of meat. So he went down to get the butchering done. In the meantime a coyote came along said that I'm hungry. OK. See that. We get them. Did you pick this piece of meat and wash it down river and bring it back down. He took a piece of meat. When he came back he took it from me. OK. Good. Take it the same way. But bring back
a second time the fish to get away. Third time same way when he noticed the belly getting out. You know he was eating it the fourth time he took it down. Walk in the back. He said you're going to get away with this time he took a tomahawk and got rid of him. The Coyote did OK. You're in your 70s pious. You tell these wonderful stories you speak the language what's what comes next How's the next generation going to carry these things. Well I hope that they wake up to advice and information coming from the elders that they have to do it different. This idea that dope apart from everything that they're going by is not good.
I never had any marijuana or anything like that in my life. But my one trouble was liquor. I lost three years of my life because of that. And the reason why I woke up to the fact that I had gone wrong when I made my dad cry. My dad he was the only parent I got when I was around 18 19 years old. Mom was gone and he's the one that was foremost in my mind as far as that Veitch is contained. You told me everything you want to know he would say something very crucial. As far as advisers are concerned he said Now son come over and listen. I want to tell you listen carefully. I will
tell it just one because if I tell it the second time you know be misconstrued to be other words and didn't get on I will kill. And that's the way he was. He was the medicine man. And people really felt good about him with his Hurby to cure some minor ailment. And when you come to a point where something had to be taken out of the body he would instruct the person go to the doctor and they really respected him for that. That's we've run out of time. Good. I'm going to make one more attempt here to say a word in Arapahoe. That's how China how best. They're close. Thanks very much for being with us. OK. Thanks for joining us on Main Street while we get.
- Main Street, Wyoming
- Contributing Organization
- Wyoming PBS (Riverton, Wyoming)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This episode is an interview between host Geoff O'Gara and Arapahoe Language, Culture and History teacher Pius Moss. During the interview, Moss explains at length the importance of learning and using the Arapahoe language, along with what it represents, both inside and outside the classroom.
- Other Description
- Main Street, Wyoming is a documentary series exploring aspects of Wyoming's local history and culture.
- Created Date
- Asset type
- Main Street, Wyoming is a public affairs presentation of Wyoming Public Television 1991
- Media type
- Moving Image
Guest: Moss, Pius
Host: Geoff, O'Gara
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Wyoming PBS (KCWC)
Identifier: 3-1358 (WYO PBS)
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Main Street, Wyoming; Pius Moss, Arapaho Language, Culture, and History Teacher,” 1991-02-06, Wyoming PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-260-8380gm69.
- MLA: “Main Street, Wyoming; Pius Moss, Arapaho Language, Culture, and History Teacher.” 1991-02-06. Wyoming PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-260-8380gm69>.
- APA: Main Street, Wyoming; Pius Moss, Arapaho Language, Culture, and History Teacher. Boston, MA: Wyoming PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-260-8380gm69