American Indian Language Facts

Preceding the landing in the Americas of European pilgrims more than 1,000 dialects were talked by the Native Americans who lived in North and South America. Today the greater part of these dialects have turned out to be wiped out with just a couple still talked; for the most part by tribe seniors.

On this page is a rundown of actualities about Native American Language composed for both children and grown-ups. This data incorporates which dialects are as yet talked, how complex these dialects are, the reason these dialects are imperative to safeguarding Native American culture, and what measures are being taken to protect American Indian dialects.

Interesting Native American Language Facts
– Native American languages were often very complex; even compared to modern day languages.
– There were major differences in the numerous languages spoken in the Americas prior to contact with Europeans. Often tribes living just a few miles apart could not communicate with each other verbally due to differences in grammar.
– Native American tribes that could not communicate verbally due to differences in language often used sign language to communication. This sign language was often quite complex with numerous hand signs representing various words or things.
– Prior to European contact none of the people native to America developed a system of writing.
– In the United States only eight surviving Native American languages have a significant number of speakers; they are Navajo (by far the largest population of speakers), Cree, Ojibwa, Dakota, Cherokee, Apache, Choctaw, and Blackfoot.
– There were historically numerous Native American language families; which are similar languages with originated from a common language. These language families included Algonquin, Iroquoian, Salishan, Siouan, Muskogean, Sahaptian, Kiowa-Tanoan, and Caddoanand Athabaskan.
– In the 1800s and early 1900s the United States government implemented several policies which contributed to the extinction of Native American languages. Many Indian children were sent to schools, run by the government, where they were not allowed to speak their native languages. The goal of these policies was to assimilate Native American Indians into the culture of the U.S.
– Native American languages played a key role in helping the Allies win World War II. Native Americans, mostly Navajo, who became known as “code talkers” were used to send important secret military messages. Enemy intelligence soldiers could not decipher these messages.

Preservation of Native American Languages
– In the mid-1900s people started to realize the importance of preserving Native American languages. It was realized that with the extinction of a language came a certain loss of those people’s culture and history.
– In 1990 the U.S. Congress passed the Native American Languages Act which states that it will be the government’s policy to “preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages”.
– In 2006, with the passing of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, federal money grants were made available to Native American language programs.
– In October of 2014 the governor of Alaska signed into law House Bill 216. This bill officially recognizes the twenty indigenous languages in Alaska. The importance of this bill is that these languages are now officially recognized therefore aiding efforts to preserve the languages. Alaska is the 2nd state to officially recognize native languages; Hawaii was the first.


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