A Breath of Life for Natchez, Osage, and Otoe

Natchez, a Muskogean language of Louisiana, has been sleeping since the last two fluent speakers, Watt Sam and Nancy Raven, died in the 1930s. Today, only 6 of 10,000 enrolled Natchez can speak it, now located in Oklahoma. Fortunately, Breath of Life, a joint project of the University of Texas, Arlington and the University of Oklahoma, is working in their favor, as well as that of the Osage and Otoe. A two-year National Science Foundation grant of $90,000 provided that a summer workshop will be held in 2011 much like that of 2010, where linguists mentored tribal members on how to revitalize their languages. Following in the footsteps of a UC Berkeley project, UT Arlington’s initiative is to create online dictionaries and digitized old texts, descriptions and wordlists (some collected by Thomas Jefferson) to be stored in Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. To apply, check out the Endangered Language Fund’s website:

The workshop will take place June 13-24, 2011, in Washington, DC. The registration fee will be $500, with scholarships available. Housing and some meals will be provided, and partial travel assistance is available. More details on the application process for both researchers and mentors will be forthcoming soon.

The Institute is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Documenting Endangered Languages program. It will be co-hosted by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives (NAA), National Museum of Natural History (MNH) and National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFC).

Applications for both participants and mentors are due March 1, 2011.

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