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Endangered Native Languages Of The United States

A large number of indigenous languages of the United States are classified as endangered, necessitating the immediate protection of them.

What Is An Endangered Language?

Around the world, many languages are becoming less common as other commonly used languages replace them. In many cases, the progeny of certain language speakers never learns their native family language. This trend is resulting in endangered languages, those languages that will likely become extinct in the future. This article takes a look at the endangered languages of the US.

The Decline Of Native American Languages

In the US, native languages spoken by the indigenous peoples have been declining since Europeans began arriving. Before colonialism, approximately 300 languages were used throughout the country. Today, there are around 167 languages, and estimates suggest that only 20 of these indigenous languages will remain by 2050.

What happened to the original 300 languages? European settlers marginalized the indigenous population, pushing them off their land, and eventually giving them tracts of land nowhere near their traditional homes. From the late 19th to the early 20th centuries, the government initiated assimilation programs to eradicate Native American culture, including their languages. As part of these programs, the government ran boarding schools for indigenous children, which removed them from their families for significant periods of time. The curriculum was designed to force the students to learn English. Not only were they punished for using their native languages, but also their traditional names were replaced with European-American names. The goal was to create a homogenous culture within the US.

The federal government did not change these policies until 1972 when Congress passed the Indian Education Act. This act made it legal to teach Native American children in indigenous languages and gave tribes the authority to control schools for Native American children. This was reinforced in the 1990’s when the US government passed the Native American Languages Act, which recognized the importance of preserving indigenous languages. In 2006, Congress approved funding for tribes that want to establish language programs in local schools.

The Importance Of Preserving Language

Put simply, language is culture. Preserving a language allows its users to maintain a cultural identity, which allows the culture to survive. Researchers suggest that language preservation leads to empowerment within a community. It improves community relationships, enhances self-esteem, and increases cultural well-being. The United Nations (UN) also recognizes the importance of preserving native languages. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets forth the right of indigenous people to develop, use, and share their native languages.

How To Protect And Promote Endangered Languages

The first step toward promoting endangered languages is to make them available to interested learners. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by offering language classes to school children. Offering language courses and working to record the language, its vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar and making it available to a wide audience are excellent approaches to preventing language extinction. Any technique that may lead to increased use and exposure, particularly for children, is likely to preserve the language. The biggest challenge in protecting language use is keeping younger generations interested in their language heritage. This interest can be difficult to establish when youth are expected to use English in nearly every facet of their lives. Many tribes have made progress, however. The Navajo and Miami tribes, in particular, have established language immersion programs that have preserved and renewed use within their communities.

Endangered Languages Of The United States

LanguageStatus
Achumawi language Critically endangered
Acoma-Laguna language Definitely endangered
Ahtna language Critically endangered
Alabama language Definitely endangered
Aleut language (Eastern) Critically endangered
Aleut language (Western) Severely endangered
Arapaho language (Wyoming) Vulnerable
Arikara language Critically endangered
Assiniboine language (United States) Critically endangered
Blackfoot language (United States) Vulnerable
Caddo language Critically endangered
Cahuilla language Critically endangered
Central Alaskan Yup'ik language Vulnerable
Central Pomo language Critically endangered
Central Siberian Yupik language (St. Lawrence Island) Vulnerable
Central Sierra Miwok language Critically endangered
Chemehuevi language Critically endangered
Cherokee language (North Carolina) Vulnerable
Cherokee language (Oklahoma) Vulnerable
Cheyenne language (Montana) Vulnerable
Cheyenne language (Oklahoma) Vulnerable
Chickasaw language Severely endangered
Chinook Jargon language Critically endangered
Choctaw language (Louisiana) Vulnerable
Choctaw language (Mississippi) Vulnerable
Choctaw language (Oklahoma) Vulnerable
Cocopa language (Arizona) Severely endangered
Coeur d'Alene language Critically endangered
Columbia-Moses language Critically endangered
Comanche language Severely endangered
Creek language Vulnerable
Crow language Vulnerable
Gros Ventre language Critically endangered
Gwich'in language (United States) Severely endangered
Halkomelem language Severely endangered
Hän language (United States) Critically endangered
Havasupai language Definitely endangered
Hawaiian language Vulnerable
Hawai'i Sign LanguageCritically endangered
Hidatsa language Vulnerable
Holikachuk language Critically endangered
Hopi language Vulnerable
Hualapai language Vulnerable
Hupa language Critically endangered
Ingalik language Critically endangered
Ipai language Critically endangered
Jemez language Vulnerable
Jicarilla Apache language Severely endangered
Kalispel-Pend d'Oreille Critically endangered
Karuk language Severely endangered
Kashaya language Critically endangered
Kawaiisu language Critically endangered
Kickapoo language (Kansas) Vulnerable
Kickapoo language (Oklahoma) Vulnerable
Kickapoo language (Texas) Vulnerable
Kiksht language Critically endangered
Kings River Yokuts Critically endangered
Kiowa language Severely endangered
Kiowa Apache language Critically endangered
Klallam language Critically endangered
Koasati language (Louisiana) Definitely endangered
Koasati language (Texas) Definitely endangered
Konkow language Critically endangered
Koyukon language Critically endangered
Kutenai language Severely endangered
Kwak'wala language Critically endangered
Lake Miwok language Critically endangered
Luiseño language Critically endangered
Lushootseed language Critically endangered
Maidu language Critically endangered
Makah language Critically endangered
Malecite-Passamaquoddy language Definitely endangered
Maliseet-Passamaquoddy language Severely endangered
Mandan language Critically endangered
Maricopa language Severely endangered
Massachusett language Vulnerable
Menominee language Critically endangered
Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache language (New Mexico) Definitely endangered
Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache language (Oklahoma) Critically endangered
Micmac language (Massachusetts) Vulnerable
Mikasuki language Vulnerable
Mohave language (Arizona) Severely endangered
Mohave language (California) Severely endangered
Mohawk language (Akwesasne, St. Regis) Vulnerable
Mohawk language (Ganienkeh) Vulnerable
Mohawk language (Kanatsiohareke) Vulnerable
Mono language (Eastern) Critically endangered
Mono language (Western) Critically endangered
Montana Salish language Critically endangered
Munsee language (United States) Critically endangered
Navajo language Vulnerable
Nez Perce language Critically endangered
Inupiat language Severely endangered
Northern Haida language Critically endangered
Northern Paiute language (Idaho) Critically endangered
Northern Paiute language (Nevada) Definitely endangered
Northern Paiute language (Oregon) Critically endangered
Northern Pomo language Critically endangered
Northern Sierra Miwok language Critically endangered
Northern Straits Salish language Critically endangered
O'odham language (Akimel) Vulnerable
O'odham language (Tohono) Vulnerable
Ojibwe language Vulnerable
Okanagan language Definitely endangered
Omaha-Ponca language Critically endangered
Oneida language (New York) Critically endangered
Oneida language (Wisconsin) Critically endangered
Onondaga language (New York) Critically endangered
Osage language Vulnerable
Ottawa language (Michigan) Critically endangered
Pacific Gulf Yupik language Severely endangered
Panamint language Critically endangered
Patwin language Critically endangered
Pawnee language Critically endangered
Picuris language Vulnerable
Plains Sign TalkCritically endangered
Potawatomi language (Kansas) Critically endangered
Potawatomi language (Michigan) Critically endangered
Potawatomi language (Oklahoma) Critically endangered
Potawatomi language (Wisconsin) Critically endangered
Quechan language Definitely endangered
Rio Grande Keresan language Definitely endangered
Sahaptin language Severely endangered
Sauk-Fox language Critically endangered
Seneca language (United States) Severely endangered
Seward Peninsula Inupiaq language (King Island) Critically endangered
Seward Peninsula Inupiaq language (Little Diomede Island) Critically endangered
Seward Peninsula Inupiaq language (Norton Sound) Critically endangered
Shawnee language Vulnerable
Shoshoni language (Idaho) Vulnerable
Shoshoni language (Nevada) Vulnerable
Shoshoni language (Wyoming) Vulnerable
Sioux language Vulnerable
Southern Paiute language Severely endangered
Southern Pomo language Critically endangered
Southern Sierra Miwok language Critically endangered
Southern Tiwa language (Isleta Pueblo) Definitely endangered
Southern Tiwa language (Sandia Pueblo) Definitely endangered
Spokane language Critically endangered
Straits Salish language Severely endangered
Tanacross language Critically endangered
Tanaina language Severely endangered
Tanana language Critically endangered
Taos language Definitely endangered
Tewa language (Arizona) Definitely endangered
Tewa language (New Mexico) Severely endangered
Tipai language (United States) Severely endangered
Tlingit language (United States) Critically endangered
Tolowa language Critically endangered
Tubatulabal language Critically endangered
Tule-Kaweah Yokuts Critically endangered
Tuscarora language (United States) Critically endangered
Upland Yuman language Vulnerable
Upper Kuskokwim language Critically endangered
Upper Tanana language (United States) Critically endangered
Ute language (Colorado, Southern Ute) Vulnerable
Ute language (Colorado, Ute Mountain) Vulnerable
Ute language (Utah) Vulnerable
Valley Yokuts Severely endangered
Washo language Severely endangered
Western Apache language Vulnerable
Winnebago language (Nebraska) Severely endangered
Winnebago language (Wisconsin) Severely endangered
Wintu-Nomlaki language, Wintu language Critically endangered
Yaqui language (United States) Definitely endangered
Yavapai language Severely endangered
Yuchi language Critically endangered
Yurok language Critically endangered
Zuni language Vulnerable

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