Reclaiming Our Language

How Klamath people are working to revitalize their language.

An elder woman wearing a beaded cape and headdress looks away from the camera, smiling

According to the Endangered Language Alliance, nearly half of the estimated seven thousand languages currently spoken in the world are expected to disappear by the end of this century. 

As forces like globalization continue to homogenize culture and language, people around the world are working to preserve and revitalize their languages. One such effort in Oregon is that of the Klamath Tribes.


Part 1

We open with a report by CBS News about the first restoration celebration by the Klamath Tribes. Then we move forward thirty-seven years to the summer of 2023, hearing members of the Rocky Point drum group sing a song created in the Tribes’ language program. The song is a celebration of love, dance, the creator, and his people.

The termination of the Klamath Tribes by the federal government in 1954, along with boarding schools, broken treaties, forced modernity, substance use disorders, and the mental and physical health issues brought about by these traumas are some of the causes of a steep decline in language fluency among Klamath people.

The song lyrics are:
“naas stinta maqlaqs ksiwlga                       
moni moo sep’kecc’a blaydalkni
moo ams ni stinta maqlaqs”

In English:
“One love Indian people, dance!
Very big thank you to the one up above
I love you very much!”


Part 2

In this video, we hear insights from the Klamath Tribes Language Program director, sdasdool?aks sn'eweets (“Quail Woman”). She was with a group of Klamath Tribes department members visiting Portland to give support and outreach to members in the north. We hear about the struggles and successes with the program and the efforts to revitalize the language.


Part 3

Part 3 coming soon!


This article is presented as part of Oregon Humanities’ Community Storytelling Fellowship. You can find more stories and interviews here.

CBS news Footage courtesy of Rad Universe
Thank you to Geoff Shell


Education, Language, Dance, Native American, Community Storytelling Fellowship


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