Mar 19

Screaming in a Dying Language

WHAT’S PLAYING: Robbie RobertsonGhost Dance

They’ve lost it, lost it,

and their children

will never even wish for it—

and I am afraid

that the whole tribe’s in trouble,

the whole tribe is lost—

because the sun keeps rising

and these days

nobody sings.

Aaron Kramer


My language is dying, and I’m afraid.

Afraid that the world will forget us. That we will forget ourselves. I’m afraid that once we’ve lost our language, we’ll lose our culture. Our identity.

I’m also angry that Fate – and the American government – was less kind to us than it should have been.

But mostly, I’m just sad. Choctaw is my first language. The language of my ancestors. It calls up images of home and family. To lose that connection…well, it breaks my heart to think about it.

We’re not alone. The vast majority of the estimated 300 languages spoken in North American before the arrival of Christopher Columbus are endangered or extinct. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) lists Choctaw as vulnerable. At last count, there are only about 9500 people fluent in it, and the number is dwindling fast.

One question keeps rolling around in my mind: “How did we get here?”

Less than a century ago, Choctaw code talkers helped the US military to victory during WWI. Now, it seems that we’re destined for extinction.

How the fuck did this happen?

Screw that.

I’m not giving up the ghost without a fight. And thankfully, I’m not alone. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has started offering language classes online.

So to do my part, starting this week I’ll be posting Choctaw stories and legends – as told to me by my grandfather – along with a Choctaw Word of the Day.

Will posting these stories and words prevent my language from sliding into obscurity? Probably not.

But, at least I’ll be doing my part to ensure that we are not forgotten.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/03/screaming-in-a-dying-language/


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  1. morningpageswriter

    And, it is my belief, that as long as there are people like you, posting Choctaw stories and legends, you will not be forgotten. Wonderful!


    1. justjacqui2

      Thank you Mandy. I believe that people like you — those willing to listen — are vital to the preservation of endangered cultures.

  2. Melinda VanLone

    Can’t wait to hear some of the stories!

    1. justjacqui2

      Thanks Melinda! I can’t wait to start sharing them with you all.

  3. Janice Heck

    Jacqui. What a great idea! I’ll be looking for the stories.

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