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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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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.



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Point Reyes Station, CA, United States

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