The Main Stream

Jun 15, 2010 7:29 PM

Saving the Yaqui language

TUCSON - A unique collaboration is underway at the University of Arizona to try to revitalize an endangered language that a few people still speak in the Tucson area.

UA Linguistics Professor Heidi Harley is studying the native language of the Yaqui tribe. It's called Hiaki.

Harley says, "In Arizona and in the United States the language is endangered. The people who remain who speak the language are all elderly, 50 or older, and the children are not learning the language anymore."

Harley is studying the Hiaki language by using 30 year old audio tapes recorded by tribal member Maria Leyva.

Leyva interviewed tribal members who survived Mexico's persecution of the tribe in the 1800s. Leyva says, "It was cultural genocide but very few of our young people know this."

Until now Leyva says it was too painful to translate the stories the elders told her. Now she plans to write a book about them.

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