QUECHAN TRIBAL NATION, Calif. – Out of 30,000 Quechan Tribal members fewers than one-hundred speak their native language today. The average age of those speakers that continue the tradition is pushing 70-years-old, making the situation all the more dire.
“We don’t want our language to die. We would like to keep our language going on. And to say that the Quechan race is never going to disappear from this earth. We are going to continue to be strong,” said Barbara Levy, Quechan Language Preservation Coordinator.
A federal grant from the Administration for Native Americans funds the initiative to preserve the language. Remaining Quechan speakers brainstorm to agree on the most accurate translations from English to Quechan. They then mentor younger members. “As I start teaching I feel that it’s important that it be written down and also recorded so you can hear the sound,” said Ila Dunzweiler, Quechan Language Instructor.
Linguist Amy Miller dedicated thirty years of her life to studying the Quechan Language and have uncovered 15,000 words. She now travels 400 miles to meet with the Quechan tribe to continue preservation efforts with the elders. “Now I’m working with a younger generation of speakers, and there’s just a whole lot more information to gather. I thought I was finished but no you’re never finished working on a language, there’s always more information to gather and that’s what I’m doing here,” said Miller.
The first of three phases will come to an end in August. The tribe will continue to pursue the federal grant to start up the second phase.