The two-year Choctaw Language Preservation Project will document, translate, archive, and disseminate high-quality, field-collected audio and video recordings of the few remaining elders and fluent speakers of the endangered Chahta Anumpa (Choctaw language) as they share their language, stories, and cultural knowledge. After their forced removal from their homelands in the Southeastern US, the Choctaw were made to abandon their language under an English-only system of education. Students were punished for uttering even a single Choctaw word. As a consequence, generations of Choctaws have been dissuaded from speaking their native tongue. Today, Choctaw is classified as endangered language. Of the 170,000 member tribal population, fewer than 500 speak Choctaw unmixed with English. In the past forty years, there has been a great decrease in the number of fluent native speakers. This loss underscores the urgent need to document the varieties of the use of Choctaw in everyday life as well as in stories. In this project funded by the National Science Foundation, Terry Ragan and Dr. John A. Jackson will head a team of fluent Choctaw-speakers who will travel the 11,000-square-mile remote, rugged area that makes up the Choctaw Nation in southeastern Oklahoma. They will record many stories, conversations, and songs of the remaining elders/speakers. These recordings will be transcribed and made broadly available so the resources can be used for a range of purposes by researchers, teachers, and other interested persons. Additional assistance will be provided by Dr. Dale Nicklas, who began studying the Choctaw language in 1967, and Dr. Marcia Haag, a linguist at the University of Oklahoma who specializes in the Choctaw language. The Choctaw Language Preservation Project will preserve and document the endangered Choctaw language to successfully link those who have gone before with those who are yet to come.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Susan D. Penfield
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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
United States
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