Mojave Language Recovery Efforts Underway

The Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University is establishing workshops to keep Mojave (or Mohave), a Californian language, from dying. Currently, only 22 elderly people speak some Mojave, mostly at the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation in northwest Arizona, California and Nevada, and the Colorado River Indian Reservation at Parker, AZ (shared with Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo), out of about 1,000 tribal members.

Natalie Diaz, linguist and program coordinator for Fort Mojave’s language recovery program, is taking all the critically acclaimed steps in language revitalization. She’s recording conversations and pairing fluent speakers with younger learners (usually around 30) and matching language use to cultural settings such as making pottery or cooking, which in turn strengthens community relationships. Students are taught to appreciate dialectal differences rather than regarded one as the standard (Mojave varies by pre-contact tribal location – Northern, Central and Southern), and Diaz even has in mind to expose daycare students to simple songs and lullabies (to accustom their little ears to Mojave phonology no doubt!), taking after immersion schools like ‘Aha Pu:nana Leo of Hawaii.

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