Preserving the Chickasaw Language for Future Generations

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown May 26th, 2014 Last Updated on: May 26th, 2014

Recently the last monolingual Chickasaw language speaker, Emily Johnson Dickerson, passed away. From the Chickasaw Nation press release:

“Emily Dickerson was a treasured elder who held the Chickasaw language and ways of life close to her heart,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “This is a sad day for all Chickasaw people because we have lost a cherished member of our Chickasaw family and an unequalled source of knowledge about our language and culture. My condolences go out to her closest friends and family as we mourn the loss of a woman who holds a special place in the hearts of her family and her tribe.”

Born Feb. 22, 1920, her childhood was spent in the unrelenting Oklahoma sun picking cotton, harvesting peanuts and chaffing broom corn as a farm laborer. When she married in 1968, she became a homemaker and housewife, raising children who spoke only Chickasaw until they enrolled in public school.

Emily Dickerson’s portrait by artist Mike Larsen

Emily Dickerson’s portrait by artist Mike Larsen

The news of her passing was especially hard on Joshua Hinson who is director of the Chickasaw Nation Language Department and has devoted his life to studying the language. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the loss and what this means to the Chickasaw Nation,” he said.

In recent years the Chickasaw nation has been trying to revitalize the language using modern technology. It is estimated there are only about 70 remaining fluent speakers of the Chickasaw language. In this video Hinson talks about the origins of the language and how important it is to revitalize the language.

For more information on the Chickasaw Language, as well as great lessons for beginners, please visit Chickasaw.TV.

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Preserving the Chickasaw Language for Future Generations

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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