Oregon Tribal Languages have been endangered for over 100 years. From an original base of some 100 languages and dialects, the number of surviving languages with speakers has dwindled to about eight. Most tribes do not have many elder speakers and the language programs are constantly searching for funding to help the languages survive to the next generation. At least five tribes have active language stabilization and restoration programs and several tribes teach their language (s) in community groups. A few tribes have a language taught in regular school classrooms. The most advanced by far is the Chinuk wawa program at the Grand Ronde tribe, which is offered Pre-Kindergarten to the fifth grade, and includes community classes, and classes at local colleges and one at Willamina High school. Grand Ronde has had a program of partial day immersion for over 15 years, a program which has been altered and expanded in recent years.
All of Oregon’s remaining indigenous languages are highly endangered regardless of efforts to stabilize them. Most tribe have only one or a few language experts and this means they are highly vulnerable to extinction. Training is laborious and it takes a lot of time to learn a language. Attracting language teachers is not an easy task, with few people willing to devote themselves to low wages for a long time.
Elders at the tribes have stated that when a language goes extinct, a library dies. The native languages of Oregon carry the human understanding and meaning of human relationships with this land over the last millennia.
The following are the tribal websites and sources of information about the tribes and their languages. Some of the text is quoted from the tribal websites.
Our Language is as old as time itself.
For countless generations our people lived out their lives speaking our words. In all that time, our words were never written. They were carried in the hearts and minds of our ancestors. They were learned by each generation and in turn taught to the next.
For all of our history up to the 1850’s our people prospered, by obeying the Laws of the Creator and living in balance with the land. With the arrival of the Europeans a tragedy began to unfold for our People, which in many ways extends to this day.
The site includes resources to aid Teachers and Learners in their efforts to improve their proficiency in our language. It is also intended to be used by Language Teachers and Learners of other Indigenous Languages to discuss resources and strategies they use.
The Elementary Chinuk Language Program provides Chinuk lessons to students in grades Kindergarten through 5th . Our Elementary Chinuk Language Program also teaches lessons in the K-5 after school and summer programs.
There are numerous early Chinook Jargon Dictionaries at various online sources, the Internet Archive has many.
The Grand Ronde Tribe does not have a Kalapuyan Language program.
My Life, by Louis Kenoyer Reminiscences of a Grand Ronde Reservation Childhood, By Henry Zenk and Jedd Schrock, OSU Press. Tualatin Kalapuyan narratives in translation.
Kalapuya Texts by Melville Jacobs, at UW Digital Collections
ndnhistoryresearch.com (Kalapuyan lessons)
We are the living descendants of the Milluk, Hanis, Siuslaw and Lower Umpqua people. It is our duty to know, teach, promote and perpetuate our native languages to our children. For thousands of years we have spoken our own, unique language. It has only been in the last 150 years that the majority of us have lost it. Not of our choosing, though. Today we are still rebuilding what was lost. We are relearning our languages.
Sichil’s Blog (Patty Whereat Phillips) leading language researcher and speaker for the tribe.
Ethnobotany of the Coos Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, by Patty Whereat Phillips
In centuries past, the Coquille Tribe’s ancestral homelands sat at the intersection of two distinct “families” of Native languages. To the north were various dialects of the Penutian family, including Miluk and Hanis. To the south were Athabaskan dialects, related to languages spoken in Alaska and the American Southwest.
They are currently working on Takelman, with no active internet presence.
How do you say that in Klamath? This section is being presented to help keep alive and revitalize the Klamath Language, which like most other American Indian languages is quickly losing its fluent speakers. Presented primarily for tribal members, it is a basic course endorsed by the Culture and Heritage Department.
The Indian History of the Modoc War, Jeff Riddle
The Language Program’s major goal is to provide language education programs to the Warm Springs Community.
When the River Ran Wild!, Indian Traditions on the Mid-Columbia and the Warm Springs Reservation, GEORGE W. AGUILAR, SR.
“Preserving Our Wadatika Yaduan (Wadatika Language) for The People”
Our Wadatika Yaduan Language Preservation Project has captured the verbal pronunciations of 1000s of Northern Paiute words and phrases as spoken by the Wadatika Band of Northern Paiutes. Expert Northern Paiute Speakers within the community were interviewed by our tribal Language Technicians trained in digital recording technology.
The CTUIR Language Program will contribute towards revitalization of the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Weyíiletpuu languages and retrieve, preserve, invigorate and teach the three dialects to tribal members and wholeheartedly involve all fluent language speakers to their full capacity.
Umatilla Dictionary, By Noel Rude, UW press
Cáw Pawá Láakni / They Are Not Forgotten, Sahaptian Place Names Atlas of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla, EUGENE S. HUNN, E. THOMAS MORNING OWL, PHILLIP E. CASH CASH, AND JENNIFER KARSON ENGUM
The Nez Perce people, are one of the original Oregon tribes. The Nimiipuutimt Alphabet Book has been developed to aid in the learning of the Nez Perce alphabet, as approved by the Language Program’s Advisory Board of Elders in March 1997.
Nez Perce Language App for Android
Nimipuutimt ‘iníit language app website
Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD
PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.
I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.