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Lost Languages

​~ Daniella James

Native American Nations have lost

many battles due to lack of writing

and reading knowledge. Ancient oral

languages are dissipating at a tragic

rate. Covid-19 is killing the previous

Native American elders who are

proficient of their languages. Current

high school and college level students

who hold Native American ethnicity

are now receiving the tools to read

historical lessons of constitutions,

bi-laws, treaties, and limitations. The small population of educated Native Americans are now working towards making mends in order to assist their People. The skills of writing is what took away Native American lands, waters, foods, and education. Writing is now the ambition that I wish to assist in my professional path. I am to learn of policy and tribal sovereignty. I aim to read the pre-existing laws that marginalize specific People.

The writers of textbooks get to tell the stories of the past. The authors of those verbal stories get to share their respected side of the story. Educated Native Americans will one day get to be the publishers of life-changing books. With practice of writing to Native Americans, writing can stimulate positive change to their local communities, in turn to the regional communities, and eventually will assist all People.

I am currently learning to read and write in Southern Athapaskan, the language of my father’s mother. In most Native American cultures, there is a matriarchy system. When I was in my youth, I am thankful I heard my grandmother’s voice in the language of the People who were here in the United States of America prior to colonization. To share some perspective, there are 565 federally recognized tribes, which indicates there are at least 565 languages with countless dialects. Now, when I hear this Ndeh Biyati’ language, I hear the ancestors encourage me to keep learning. There are not many writers of this historical language, as there is no formal documenters to write such a language. There is currently one professional linguistic male who adventures with San Carlos Apache Tribe women in walking the tribal lands to document the words of plants, animals, verbs, nouns, and perhaps, some ancient stories of life lessons. I wish there was someone who was from San Carlos Apache Tribe who would do this tasks. Since I see no one, I find there is a need. Who else might consider this a profession?

Each tribal nation holds a small population. Overall, the Native American population under the United States of American is roughly 2%. I state this as there is many a controversy on Native American consensus documentation, even as last year with the consensus year. Mr. Willem J. de Reuse has written a book, “A Practical Grammar of the San Carlos Apache Language.” I bought this book, and it was expensive. To me, I will pay this high cost to hear my ancestors. In regards to my Native grandmother, I am receiving the education she never got the opportunity to have. Her language was taken away. If she spoke her language in an American classroom, she would get physically hit and her food ration would be taken away.


As I am holding back tears of pain, I am motivated to keep trying. I am not afraid to read industry specific jargon. I am not afraid to learn what those words mean. I am not afraid to learn of the history contained in words. I am not afraid to verbally share with Native American communities what these words and laws mean. I am not afraid to open my heart.

As I reflect on lessons learned throughout my life, I have read stories of strong female authors who use pen names to hide their identity. When I was young, I found this to be interesting in a negative way. Now, I see that hiding one’s self-decided identity needs to be embraced. Women will one day hold the statistic of holding higher positions across the board in professional sectors.

Writing assisting in verbal communication by assisting the mind to kindly placing thoughts in targeted presentation. In Native American modern group culture, a person is not encouraged to speak up within its community. I find that writing may be a creative solution to empower an individual. With more education, a person will become more empowered to move beyond just writing. Planning and action will hopefully take place. I consider people who do this to be brave, thoughtful, and inspiring. I aspire to inspire. With a large sigh, I hope for one day making an impact to help others, for I enjoy the many skills under the umbrella of the world in writing. Ahi’yi’ee. Thank you.