California once had more linguistic variety than all of Europe. “Language Keepers” is a 6-part series following four Indigenous communities in California who are working to revitalize their languages.
The series explores how the loss of a language reaches much further than the disappearance of words.
Part 1: At eighty-five, Marie Wilcox is the only fluent speaker of Wukchumni. Having spent twenty years compiling a Wukchumni dictionary, she and her family are now embarking on a language revitalization project across four generations.
Part 2: The Klamath River is the ancestral home of the Karuk people. Phil Albers, Julian Lang, and Maymi Preston-Donahue are learning to speak Karuk in order to keep the people connected to their language and the river.
Part 3: Julie Girado Turner is the daughter of one of two remaining fluent speakers of Kawaiisu. For sixteen years, she has been documenting the language and stories still alive within the memories of her father and aunt.
Part 4: Loren Bommelyn is the sole fluent speaker of Tolowa Dee-ni’, a language of California’s Pacific coast. Faced with generations of trauma, he is teaching the language and traditions to his children and grandchildren.
Part 5: On a walk through a redwood preserve near Crescent City, the Bommelyn family shares their commitment to carrying on the Tolowa Dee-ni’ language.
Part 6: The Bommelyn family reflects on the knowledge that is held within the Tolowa Dee-ni’ language.
Presented by Emergence Magazine, a quarterly online publication featuring innovative stories that explore the threads connecting ecology, culture, and spirituality.