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The Takelma Language – Wilihowtek! (greetings!)

Cow Creek Umpqua ancestors spoke several languages, as many Tribes did in the Pacific Northwest.  Takelma is a member of the Penutian language family, which is distributed from what is now British Columbia and Alaska down into the San Joaquin Valley.  The Takelma Language was spoken nowhere else in the world.  It represents a unique and precious view of the world, rooted in a particular place.

Click here for a map of the Comparative Ethnolinguistic Regions

The last known fluent speaker of the Takelma language passed over 70 years ago.  The silencing of this language was a great loss to the Tribe and our Takelma cousins. However, 2011 marked the beginning of a long process for language restoration.  During deliberation about what language to choose for restoration, the leadership debated with great intensity.  Finally, they decided on the Takelma language as the one they would restore among Tribal members.

Takelma Words

In order to begin the work of reawakening a sleeping language, the Tribe explored many sources, such as repositories, museums, and personal diaries, all of which contained valuable information. The Tribe contracted with Northwest Indian Language Institute at University of Oregon to transform this rediscovered material into a usable and easy-to-learn format. The staff eventually used these newly developed materials to teach the language to the Tribal membership. As a result, the Tribe is teaching its members to become new traditional Takelma speakers.

The Tribe currently holds language classes at the Tribe’s new Education and Workforce Center in Tri-City, Oregon, every week. There are also language CD’s or other language materials available for those interested. If you would like more information about the classes or materials, or just have questions or comments, please contact Rhonda Malone-Richardson at 541-677-5575.

Takelma Alphabet Chart