Oklahoma and Native Languages

February 22, 2011

Oklahoma holds the highest density of indigenous languages in the United States. This Hotspot includes languages originally spoken in the area as well as the languages of tribes from farther east that were forcibly relocated onto reservations in Oklahoma during the 1800s. Many of these languages are highly endangered as the younger generations shift to speaking English.

One endangered language of this area is Euchee, which is a language isolate, unrelated to any other language in the world. In 2005, only five elderly members of the Euchee tribe were fluent in the language. The Euchee were forced by the U.S. government to move from Tennessee to Oklahoma in the early 1800s. Until the beginning of the 1900s, most Euchee tribal members spoke the language fluently. After that, government boarding schools severely punished American Indian students heard speaking their own language in school. To avoid beatings and other punishments, Euchee children abandoned their parent’s language in favor of English. Today’s speakers spoke Euchee fluently before they went to school and have maintained the language despite strong pressure to abandon it. For more about the Euchee Language Project, go here.

List of Languages in Oklahoma (43):

1. Afro-Seminole Creole
2. Arapaho
3. Caddo
4. Cherokee
5. Chickasaw
6. Choctaw
7. Cocopa
8. Comanche
9. Eastern Keres
10. Havasupai-Walapai-Yavapai
11. Hopi
12. Jemez
13. Jicarilla Apache
14. Kansa
15. Kickapoo
16. Kiowa
17. Kiowa Apache
18. Lipan Apache
19. Maricopa
20. Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache
21. Mesquakie
22. Mohave
23. Muskogee
24. Navajo
25. Northern Tiwa
26. Omaha-Ponca
27. Osage
28. Pawnee
29. Quapaw
30. Quechan
31. Sac/Sauk
32. Seneca
33. Shawnee
34. Tewa
35. Tohono ‘O’odham
36. Ute-Southern Paiute
37. Western Apache
38. Western Keres
39. Yaqui
40. Yuchi
41. Zuni
42. English
43. Spanish

Endangered languages include:

* Kansa ( < 20 speakers, Siouan)
* Mohave ( < 75 speakers, Yuman)
* Sac/Sauk ( < 20 speakers, Algonquian)
* Wichita ( < 3 speakers, Caddoan)

From: www.swarthmore.edu

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