Native American Languages Are Disappearing. Colleges Could Help Preserve Them.

Illustration by Dave Cutler shows a teacher speaking at a blackboard and before classroom students, set against a backdrop of Native American photographs
Illustration by Dave Cutler shows a teacher speaking at a blackboard and before classroom students, set against a backdrop of Native American photographs

In 2021, the Bodéwadmimwen language was in danger of disappearing. The tongue traditionally spoken by Potawatomi Native Americans had only eight people who’d learned it as their first language, and the average age of the remaining speakers was over 80 years old.

Without fast action, the Potawatomi could lose a key piece of its cultural heritage, said Tesia Zientek, the education director of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma and president of the National Indian Education Association’s board of directors. The Potawatomi people belong to seven federally recognized tribal nations across five U.S. states. To continue reading for FREE, please sign up.

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