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Who speaks Wukchumni? A vanishing Native American language

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In this short film, Who Speaks Wukchumni?, we meet a Native American woman named Marie Wilcox, who is the last fluent speaker of Wukchumni, and the dictionary she created. Indigenous languages around the world are vanishing at a rapid rate. In this lesson, explore what could be lost when a language disappears. 

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
The Wukchumni tribe is part of the broader Yokuts tribal group native to Central California—the tribe is not recognized by the government. As many as 50,000 Yukuts lived in the region before European contact, but numbers have greatly diminished. The preservation of the Wukchumni language has become Marie Wilcox's life. The language is now being taught to tribe members at a local career center, yet the language still struggles to gain traction. 

UNESCO estimates that roughly half of the 7,000 languages spoken today will disappear if nothing is done to preserve them. More than 130 of these languages are currently at risk, with 74 languages considered "critically endangered." These languages preserve priceless cultural heritage.

Native American Day is a state holiday in California, observed annually on the fourth Friday of September and was established in 1968 to honor Native American cultures. Native American Heritage Month is celebrated annually each November. 

According to National Geographic's Vanishing Voices project, one language dies every 14 days. 

The National Science Foundation produced a special report on language and linguistics. Find out more about tracking and recording languages and the evolution of the field of linguistics. 

Interested in listening to endangered languages around the world? Visit the Smithsonian Institution and their Endangered Languages Story Map

View this TED Talk, Dreams from Endangered Cultures from Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer. He talks about the diversity of the world's indigenous cultures and the alarming rate at which they are disappearing.



Avatar for Laura Ko
Have you thought about how people can understand their history? Language is the bridge to connect past, now, and future. Archeologists reveal history though translate ancient characters or drawing. However, some languages can only be verbalized, and they are dying. When they die, the culture and the history will disappear as well. For example, Taiwanese is one of these and it's dying. Parts of Taiwanese culture can only be expressed by Taiwanese. It cannot be speared out after the language die.
10/22/2014 • 
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Avatar for Yangcheng Xu
Language is the most important part of the culture, because the culture inherit by the language. Saving the language means we need some people to learn to analysis the language. It's not get a record of this language. For example, in China, government encourage people speak the dialect and open some special class to teach them speak dialect. I think that is a right way to keep language survive, save the culture.
10/22/2014 • 
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Avatar for Wanyu Li
language and culture are mutually influence each other. Language is the culture symbol system. Human society's most important communication and thinking tools, through the language to spread the achievements of civilization, knowledge , skills. Meanwhile, the language is a special kind of cultural phenomenon. We have to reveal the accumulation of culture through language study, that's why we need keep our language survive over the century.
10/22/2014 • 
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Avatar for Yixing Li
If you need to find a way to save a disappearing culture, what is the first thing you will do? For me my answer is I will save the language of that culture first. Since all the letters and words carry all the information about a culture. For example, a minority in China named Qiang, this minority just has handful people can speak the language. So their culture is disappearing. However, the government makes some policies in education and tour areas to keep this language alive.
10/20/2014 • 
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Avatar for luciana delgado
First of all, it is important to highlight that Learning the native language means learning the same history and culture from your parents and community of family ancestors, so it allowed you to know where you come from and who you are. Also, it is important to preserve them because they make others see the world from a different perspective. It also allows you to develop cognitive skills during your educational training, and it is respecting the human right and freedom of indigenous communities. Therefore speaking the native language is of great importance first because you are retaining part of your cultural identity as a person and also i also allows you to know the history of your family, its origins, customs, traditions, beliefs.
03/21/2021 • 
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