Introducing Language Keepers, the Story of Indigenous Language Survival in California
A New Six-Part Series From the Emergence Magazine Podcast
Adapted from Emergence Magazine’s award-winning multimedia story, “Language Keepers,” this six-part podcast series explores the struggle for Indigenous language survival in California. Two centuries ago, as many as 90 languages and 300 dialects were spoken in California; today, only half of these languages remain. In this series, delve into the current state of four Indigenous languages, which are among the most vulnerable in the world: Tolowa Dee-ni’, Karuk, Wukchumni, and Kawaiisu. Along this journey, we meet and learn from dedicated families and communities across the state who are working to revitalize their Native languages and cultures in order to pass them on to the next generation.
In Episode 1, “Colonizing California,” we are introduced to the language revitalization efforts of these four Indigenous communities. Through their experiences, we examine the colonizing histories that brought Indigenous languages to the brink of disappearance and the struggle for Indigenous cultural survival in America today.
From the episode:
Colonialism is a very dark existence for people who are colonized. And to be a subjugate of colonization is tough. Matter of fact, I’m going to write a poem at some point called -ization, because we have had every -ization done to us as a race that can be done in English, I think. Sterilization and colonization—it’s just a list of -izations. So that’s going to be the title of my poem when I finally write it someday. I’ve written one recently about one of my great-grandmas, one of the massacres that she survived. And it really was cathartic in a way that I never realized until I got through it.
I actually refer to the -izations of being a subjugate population of an over-culture as a string of pearls. I’m not sure why they end up being pearls, but they are, maybe because they’re more valuable, and they’re big pearls. They’re like unreasonably huge. So one of them is genocide. And then one is boarding school. And one of them is when they came to sterilize the young girls in the 1920s so they couldn’t have children. And then we were all Christianized in the 30s. And we wear these pearls consciously or unconsciously, and emotionally and psychologically within our being, our fibers, as subjugated people.