Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 1, 2011 Volume 2

ASU center bringing new life to Native languages
Read the entire article:
Condensed by Native Village

Mojave Tribal Language Area

Arizona: Indigenous languages, like that of the Mojave tribe, are falling silent around the world.  For 51 years, linguists at Arizona State University have been trying to save them.

ASU's Center for Indian Education is a research, teaching and outreach effort for Indian tribes across the state. Teresa McCarty from the CIE says:

Only 175- 200 Native American languages are still spoken in the U.S.
Only about 20 of these are being passed down to children as first languages.
Most are spoken by individuals over age 45. Many are elders over age 65.

It's almost impossible to speak a silent language in its original form unless the language is documented on video and audio recordings.  “Imagine trying to learn a language you have never heard spoken,” McCarty said.
Languages can also be learned using texts either written or translated into the tribal language. And many tribes offer  community-based programs to teach their languages to tribal members.

ASU's Center for Indian Education has worked with schools in many Native communities to promote retention of indigenous languages and cultures. CIE also helps non-Native teachers understand their Native students' cultures.  “It’s a worldwide movement and the center is an important node,” McCarty said.

Fort Mojave Reservation





All photos and Mojave vocabulary:

The CIE has taught workshops for learners and speakers on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. Ft. Mojave 's tribal council is also involved in their efforts. All tribal member are strongly encouraged to participate.

“It’s a testament to how badly people want to do it,” said Natalie Diaz from the tribe's language recovery program.

Today, only 22 elders or so speak some Mojave. Diaz  works with the elders to teach Mojave through conversations and in cultural settings, like making pottery or cooking. She is recording their conversations and learning the language herself.

Fort Mojave residents have rallied around the elders to help build the program. Many are are committed to learning Mojave and passing it onto their kids. They speak Mojave with other community members and at home.






Plans include bringing simple Native songs and language to tribal Day Care centers. The Hawaiian language was nearly extinct until "language nests" helped revive their language. These “language nests” are family-run preschools where only the Native language is spoken. This is called language immersion.

“Children are immersed in the language spoken by elders, learning it naturally as children formerly did at home,” McCarty said.

 Navajo Reservation

In 1986, Navajo language revitalization efforts began in a Window Rock public school.  Since then, students and elders hold weekly classes to speak Mojave in a group settings and in private sessions. 




An unexpected pleasure is that speaking Mojave has enriched relationships among the generations. “It strengthens who I am as a Mojave woman, as a friend, as a sister and as a member of the community,” said April Garcia, an education administrator for the Mojave tribal government.

The different Mojave dialects are also discussed. Joe Scerato says these the differences are not errors.  He believes the Northern, Central and Southern Mojave tribes all had different dialects. These differences grew after the U.S. forced the Southern Mojave to relocate to another reservation.

Only few schools on the Navajo Reservation use bilingual approaches, despite a state law to teach all subjects in English.  Parents voluntarily enroll their children in these schools. Students in these schools perform as well or better than their peers in English-only programs.






“They are abiding by the same laws and they are accountable to the same standards” as other schools, McCarty said.

Susan Penfield is program director for the Documenting Endangered Languages program at the National Science Foundation. She says studying the world's endangered languages helps linguists and scientists understand how people in that culture think and live.

“Without linguistic diversity we will never know the capabilities of the human mind,” Penfield said.

The Lost Creation Songs of the Mojave People
Listen to online.

Native Village Home Page

Backgrounds: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Native Village is responsible for format changes.
Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article. 
Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update: We are always glad to make new friends!