One Woman's Fight to Preserve Her Native Language

United States Travel
by Morgane Croissant Apr 11, 2015

THERE ARE UP TO 7,000 LANGUAGES spoken around the world, but one quarter of them are only spoken by fewer than a 1,000 people and 46 languages have just one single speaker.

Marie Wilcox is one of them. The language of her people rest on her shoulders. The Wukchumni language, a Native American dialect, was to go extinct after her death, but she did not let this happen. Instead, she raced against time and took on the project to compile an English-Wukchumni dictionary.

Although she had not spoken the Wukchumni language since her grandparents had passed away, Marie’s sister inspired her to use it again. She started by writing down the words she remembered on pieces of paper and then decided to type them, slowly, but surely, using a computer. “I’m just a pecker, one word at a time, and I was slow”, Marie explains.

Marie worked day and night for seven years to reach her goal. Now, with the help her grandson, she is recording the finished dictionary to make sure the pronunciation will never be lost.

After having taught the Wukchumni language to her daughter and grandson, Marie now teaches weekly classes to members of her tribe. It’s impressive to see what one can do when they put their heart into it.

Discover Matador