Tribe works to keep Umatilla language alive

By NATALIE WHEELER, The East Oregonian Published:  Sep 16, 2013 at 12:59 PM PST

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Tribal members living in the Pendleton Round-Up’s teepee village stopped, listened and peeked their heads west when Carina Vasquez-Minthorn sang the national anthem at last week’s Happy Canyon Night Show.

Vasquez-Minthorn, 20, a Happy Canyon princess, sang in the Umatilla language for the first time at the show. Some cried, others clapped and cheered.

“She hadn’t told me she was going to sing in Umatilla,” Vasquez-Minthorn’s grandmother Marjorie Waheneka said. “I was telling everyone, ‘That’s Carina, that’s Carina!'”

Like many native languages, the Nez Perce language and Sahaptin language group — including Umatilla and Walla Walla — are no longer the mother tongues of most tribal members. Government boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries forbid tribal members from speaking their native language, and for many years tribal members focused less on their own verse and more on becoming masters of English.

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[From the ILAT listserv]

Ernie Dingo traces the importance of languages to Indigenous culture

Language is an integral part of our culture.

But did you know that Aboriginal languages are shaped by ancestral connections to the land, stars, water, sea and the air we breathe?

NITV’s six-part series Talking Language with Ernie Dingo explores the complex and delicate balance between language, stories and relationship to country.

“I want to hear the Earth in the words, in the songs, in the voices of the past, the present and the future [than greetings in Aboriginal language].”

There are around 250 Aboriginal languages with 600 dialects spoken in Australia.

But it’s thought only thirty of those languages are spoken each day, while over one hundred are critically endangered.

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[From the ILAT listserv]


Native American Language Could Soon Disappear

Following up on my previous post, here’s another article about the Maidu language community. It was pointed out on the Indigenous Languages & Technology listserv, however, that these articles may not be an accurate representation of actual community attitudes. Jim Bauman says:

“The BBC article seems to be generalizing that the Maidu communities in California are willingly letting their language slip away. Whatever may be the case in Taylorsville, the claim definitely does not carry over to other communities. Case in point, the Susanville Indian Rancheria has an ongoing ANA grant for a Maidu language revitalization program. The Weye-ebis Program meaning “Keep Talking” ( is working toward preservation and documentation goals with an important objective being the creation of a sustaining language training program. Other efforts are also underway in other areas of the Maidu ancestral territory.”

He also adds, I think insightfully:

“It is always the case that individuals with knowledge of their ancestral language can choose to not share that knowledge, but theirs is an individual decision that doesn’t characterize the will or intent of all tribal members.”