Twelve students at the Hoocak Academy celebrated their successful completion of an online course last month, following several months of hard work and dedication to learning the Ho-Chunk language.

They would become the first class of Online Pathway 1 graduates.

The 12-week course consisted of eight units that the students could access at their own convenience, each exposing them to a different topic of conversation within the language.

The units included “Ho-Chunk History;” “Alphabet/Positionals;” “Greetings & Giving Thanks;” “Personal Information;” “Kinship;” “Travel, Transportation, and Directions;” “Daily Life” and “People and Social.”

Academy instructor Jerod Stacy facilitated the course.

“I thought the class went really well,” Stacy said. “The thing that impressed me most was their willingness to learn. I was just amazed at how far they were able to come in such a short amount of time.”

Prior to the course, many of the students had never spoken in Ho-Chunk, the instructor said. Yet by the end of it, they all had an understanding of basic vocabulary and sentence structure.

According to Stacy, that knowledge could prove instrumental in reviving the tribe’s language.

“The majority of students that went through it were parents of Ho-Chunk children,” Stacy said. “We wanted them to take the class so they could bridge that gap, and use some language at home.”

For a long time, many parents were unable to take a language class, due to busy schedules. Their situation convinced the Language Division to start offering their curriculum in an online format.

“The purpose of doing it online was to reach as many people as we could,” Stacy said. “There’s a lot of demand for language at this time, so we wanted to reach those people who’d like to learn but just don’t have the opportunity to attend class.”

Program Manager Angelica Greendeer said the course is like a dream come true for her staff.

“We always talked about doing an online course,” Greendeer said. “But I never thought we’d actually have one.”

She said that, because of the success they had with the Online Pathway 1 program, her division plans to offer a follow-up course later in the year. The course could be online as soon as this summer, she said.

“This was just a starting point,” Greendeer said. “The second portion will be more about using the words that they learned, and actually putting them into sentences.”

Anyone interested in taking a language class should contact the Ho-Chunk Language Division.