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Since fall 2005, Wayne C'Hair has commuted from the Wind River Indian Reservation
in central Wyoming to teach an Arapaho language course at the University of Wyoming.
Meeting for just the first half of the semester, UW students in C'Hair's course attend class for four hours each Friday, then gather for a group dinner that evening and then return to class for an additional four hours the following morning.
"I feel at home here," C'Hair says.
Originally funded by a grant from the Wyoming Humanities Council, the Arapaho language class is celebrating its fifth anniversary this semester.
"I appreciate how Wayne drives down here every week," says Robert Lang, a graduate student in the UW Department of History and a member of the Arapaho language class. "It's not just a language course. Wayne tells us a lot about Arapaho culture and history."
Students in previous years have participated in traditional tribal sweats and learned to make moccasins. Another class project students developed a workbook now used at UW and in Arapaho classes on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Melanie Barto, a member of the current class, offers a compelling reason to study Arapaho.
"One of the requirements for the new American Indian studies major at UW is indigenous language study," she says. Barto was the first UW student to declare an American Indian Studies major when it became an option last spring.
In addition to meeting the language requirement for the American Indian studies undergraduate major, two semesters of Arapaho fulfills the foreign language requirement for students in the UW College of Arts and Sciences.
"Wayne is helping me understand the language. I always wanted to learn it," says Marrisa Goggles, a criminal justice junior and an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho tribe.