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81-YEAR-OLD NATIVE WOMAN CREATES DICTIONARY OF HER TRIBE’S LANGUAGE

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In the U.S., more than 130 Native American languages are endangered, and someare spoken by only a handful of people. Marie Wilcox is the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language.

At 81 years old, the great-grandmother is one of only 200 Wukchumni left living in the San Joaquin Valley of California and has taken it upon herself to revive the language.

The process has taken seven years and required Wilcox to learn to use a computer. “I’m just a pecker, one word at a time,” she said. “When I had all these words together, I thought it would be a good idea to try to make a dictionary.”

Wilcox raised her own daughter, Jennifer, speaking English. “I left my Indian language behind when my grandma died,” Wilcox said.

No one seems to want to learn. It’s sad.” However, Wilcox keeps at the dictionary, and continues teaching a weekly Wukchumni class to members of her tribe—showing that the language has a chance of surviving as long as there are tireless advocates like her.

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