American Indian Languages Dying

UALAPAI MOUNTAIN PARK, Ariz.

A decreasing number of American Indians can speak or understand their ancestral language, experts say.

The Arizona Republic reported that tribal leaders are offering special immersion courses to teach American Indian children their traditional tongue.

“A lot of people don’t realize the implications,” said Loretta Jackson-Kelly, historic preservation officer for the Hualapai Tribe. “Language loss means you lose your identity.” 

She also expressed hope that the tribe’s Pai language will survive at a tribal camp southeast of Kingman, Ariz.

“It’s clear that the languages are disappearing,” said Leanne Hinton, professor emeritus in the linguistics department at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s also clear that, over the last 10 or 20 years, there’s a very strong effort to keep them alive or regain them.”

The Indigenous Language Institute says only 20 of the 175 surviving American Indian dialects are expected to survive through 2050.

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