Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

University of Oregon: Ichishkiin Culture and Language as Protective Factors


This intergenerational program is designed to reduce substance use among Yakama Nation at‐risk youth by exposing them, through a variety of media, to the language and teachings of their elders. These activities will help youth internalize the voices of their elders so that later, when faced with the pressure to drink, they can access an elder’s voice that gives them another choice: one that is rooted in the culture. In this way, culture and language act as protective factors to substance abuse. The curriculum affirms a strong sense of positive identity and the intergenerational approach helps youth learn an Ichishkiin worldview, which will guide them in making healthy choices, including saying no to drugs and alcohol.

With funding from SAMHSA’s Service to Science Subcontract to Build Evaluation Capacity of Evidence-based Interventions, the program will also begin to evaluate the role historical trauma and, in particular, boarding schools play on language and culture loss and on Native people’s attitudes toward learning to speak their families’ and communities’ languages(s). 

Specifically, the project will develop and implement two surveys—the Ichishkiin Culture and Language as a Foundation of Wellness Survey and an Ichishkiin language proficiency survey—to begin to determine the role of language and culture as protective factors to risky behaviors and determine the language functions that students learn as they become more proficient in Ichishkiin. The project will also conduct focus groups with students and family members to examine (1) where/when Ichishkiin language stopped (being spoken) in the family, and (2) if/how Ichishkiin language and cultural learning has impacted family dynamics. Qualitative data collected from these groups will be used to inform the development of future program materials.



Janne Underriner, Ph.D.
Northwest Indian Language Institute
University of Oregon
Phone: 541.346.0722