11685 - Washiw Wagayay Manal: Reweaving the Washoe Language

In 1993, in a small tribal building, a group of Washoe elders and language activists opened the doors of the Washiw Wagayay Manal, meaning “The house where Washoe is spoken.” For ten years the program ran as an immersion school for youth. Since its inception the program has expanded from the short-lived school into weekly all-age language classes from Woodfords, CA to Carson City, NV. Former Chairman Wallace states, “Whatever the future of Washiw Wagayay Manal may be, it started a movement across the whole tribe. It showed us the cliff we were about to go over.”

The cliff Wallace refers to is the death of the Washoe language. In the mid-nineties it was conservatively estimated that Washoe had only twenty-five fluent speakers. Today,elder and native speaker Steven James estimates only six. In language revitalization efforts, time is of the essence. Linguist Marianne Mithun calls this the “significance of the moment.” In this moment, the Washoe have made a choice—they have decided to proactively preserve and rejuvenate their language. My paper will investigate the Washiw Wagayay Manal language program, examining the resources and curriculum, the educational approach, model of instruction, its efficacy, and community response/benefit of the program and previous immersion school. This paper will share the triumphs of the community’s revitalization efforts and language learning methods. It will also reveal the hindering elements that are counterproductive to language preservation.

My grandfather, a fluent Washoe speaker, understood the impending demise of the language. Before he passed, he made it a point to record as many Washoe words and phrases he could remember. His passion influences my drive to save what has not yet been lost. I approach this project from a unique perspective. As both Yerington Paiute and Washoe, I am a member of the community that I serve. As such, this paper is a rare observation into the Washoe community from the inside out.

Palabras claves: Washoe, American Indian, Native American, Language Revitalization, Language Education

Autores: Keliiaa, Caitlin (University of California, Los Angeles, Ud States of Am / USA)


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