For several years the Yuchi Language Project, a partner of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, has been working to preserve the Yuchi language. Described by The Washington Post in 2007 as being “on the brink of extinction,” there were only four fluent Yuchi speakers by 2013 – today that number is down to three.
Through our partnership this “language isolate,” meaning that it is not known to be related to any other language, is being preserved for future generations. Through the Yuchi Language Project in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, children ages 3 to 18 are now learning that language in an immersion program that was forbidden in government boarding schools generations ago.
Richard explains that the Yuchi Language Project is itself the embodiment of the vision of Yuchi Elders “as we work to breathe new life into the Yuchi language and culture.”
The program conducts a series of language classes including a daily afterschool language immersion program for children and youth, a master-apprentice program for young adults and instructors, as well as a community language program in the evenings.
The Yuchi Language Project’s most important strength is its successful work in producing new speakers of the Yuchi language, having produced a dozen speakers who are competent to teach the language and who are active in bringing the language back into three active Yuchi ceremonial grounds.
“We have a clear understanding of what it takes to grow new, young speakers as we bring together Elders and youth,” he said.