I belong to the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians and I have been actively learning our language for about 17-18 years now. I was inspired to post this today because it is International Mother Language Day (February 21, 2013)
My grandmother was a native speaker of Nomlaki. As with many Indian children of her time, she was rounded up with a few others from the Paskenta region (in western Tehama County, California), and taken nearly 600 miles away to the Sherman Institute at Riverside, California, for assimilative education.
She had nothing nice to say about that place where she was corporally punished for speaking her language. Actually, she said she liked a basket-making class and, when once after an earthquake, all of the students were made to sleep out on one of the lawns.
She, along with another friend from Paskenta, escaped the school and somehow made their way (over 570+ miles) back to Paskenta where they went immediately to work in the orchards and fields.
Although she would, on occasion, speak Nomlaki to her parents, aunties, and friends, she never taught any of her 14 children to speak Nomlaki. By the time I was in my late-teens, she hadn’t spoken Nomlaki in the home for years. That changed when I started asking her questions.
She ended up passing away not too long after I started my language journey. I am so happy I got to hear the little things that I did directly from her.
A year before her passing, I was very fortunate to have attended UC Berkeley’s Breath of Life Conference in 1996, where I began my formal quest to our Nomlaki language revitalization. My formal journey had begun.
If you speak a native language, please be sure to pass it on.
If you are a Native who is on the road to learning your language, never be discouraged. Anything you do is better than doing nothing at all.
As a result of this video, I was approached by a good man, Dennis King, to participate in a project that he described as “quixotic”.
I am all about “quixotic”.
I translate an 8-line, 1,000-year old Irish joke into Nomlaki.
You can find it here:
Check out all the languages featured in this project here:
For more info about the joke itself, go here: