Chukchansi dialect

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Region San Joaquin Valley, California
Ethnicity Chukchansi
Native speakers
8 (2011)[1]
Yok-Utian ?
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist list
Glottolog None

Chukchansi (Chuk'chansi) is a dialect of Foothill and Valley Yokuts spoken in and around the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, in the San Joaquin Valley of California, by the Chukchansi band of Yokuts. As of 2011, there were eight native speakers.[1]

"Chukchansi has no “r” sound and ... two consonants never follow each other."[2]

In May 2012, the Linguistics Department of Fresno State University received a $1 million grant to compile a Chuckchansi dictionary and grammar texts,[3] and to "provide support for scholarships, programs, and efforts to assemble native texts and create a curriculum for teaching the language so it can be brought back into social and ritual use."[4] The five-year grant was provided by the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians from funds generated by the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, and is expected to speed existing volunteer efforts by CSU Fresno faculty to document and teach the language.[5][6] However, the grant has also been criticized in connection with recent disenrollments of Chuckchansi tribal members.[7][8][9][10]

Recordings of the language were made by Sydney Lamb between 1953-1957.[11] Efforts at documentation of Chukchansi have also been attempted using the Phraselator, a handheld recording device developed for military purposes. "When a person speaks into the device in English, it responds with the Chukchansi translation." However, as of 2007, these devices were too expensive to be widely distributed.[12][13]

Chukchansi classes have been taught at the elementary school in Coarsegold, CA since 2008.[14] As of 2012, Chukchansi classes are available for children and adults.[2] The Native American Coffee Company's first coffee shop, which opened in Coarsegold in 2012, plans to translate the names of its coffee drinks into Chukchansi.

Preservation of the language has evoked strong feelings. Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis emphasized the need to "preserve, protect, and revitalize our cultural identity and traditions."[15][16] One tribal member, who put it more directly, said, "When [the United States] began the genocide of Native American communities, the reason they allowed us to sign our treaties was because we had a language ... Generations of our elders went through drought and atrocities; the core of our language is our identity," adding that she was encouraged by the fact that "non-native speakers in the community come to learn the language."[5]


  1. ^ a b Carmen George (2011-09-29). "Chukchansi issues disenrollment letters". Sierra Star. Oakhurst CA. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  2. ^ a b Onishi, Norimitsu (17 June 2012). "With Casino Revenues, Tribes Push to Preserve Languages, and Cultures". The New York Times. p. 14. 
  3. ^ "Chukchansi language to be preserved with grant". Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  4. ^ "Fresno State Receives $1 Million to Preserve, Revitalize Chukchansi Language". Foundation Center Philanthropy News Digest. 2012-05-13. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  5. ^ a b "Native American Tribe Races to Preserve Endangered Language". New America Media - Indigenous. 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  6. ^ "Chukchansi Pledges $1 Million for Language Study & Revitalization". KSEE 24 News. 2012-05-07. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  7. ^ "Saving the language?". Sierra Star. Oakhurst CA. 2012-05-17. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  8. ^ James Dao (2011-12-12). "California Indian Tribes Eject Thousands of Members". Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  9. ^ Randye Payne (2011-10-27). "Picayune Rancheria tribal disenrollments 'disheartening'". Sierra Star. Oakhurst CA. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  10. ^ Marc Benjamin (2012-07-07). "Chukchansi family files suit against U.S.". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  11. ^ "Chukchansi Yokuts audio recordings (1953-1957)". California Language Archive. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  12. ^ Charles McCarthy (2007-10-14). "Learning an almost lost language; The few Mono Indians remaining who speak their tongue are passing it down to children to preserve culture.". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  13. ^ "Tribal Linguistic History using Digital Tools". Family Oral History Using Digital Tools. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  14. ^ Carmen George (2011-09-01). "Saving a Language". Sierra Star. Oakhurst CA. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  15. ^ "Tribe Donates $1 Million to Preserve Chukchansi Language". Indian Country Today Media Network. 2012-05-10. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  16. ^ "Chukchansi Nature Trail". Sierra Nevada Geotourism MapGuide. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 

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