August 28, 2011

Tunica Language Is Resurrected


Before Europeans began to explore what is now the United States, the Tunica people lived in the Mississippi River Valley. However, by 1800’s, they were down to less than 100 members living in Marksville, Louisiana. They merged with a few friendly tribes, including the Biloxi, the Ofo and the Avoyel. These tribes all spoke languages from completely different families, so the Tunica communicated with their new brethren in French. The last fluent Tunica speaker died in the 1940’s.

Fast forward to 2010, when tribe member Brenda Lintinger contacted Judith Maxwell, a linguistics professor at Tulane University, in an effort to help revive the language of her ancestors.

Despite the difficulties, members of the tribe are enthusiastic about reviving the language. That enthusiasm was clearly on display at a tribal powwow in May of this year. Members of the tribe read stories from a children’s book written in Tunica by Ms. Lintinger.

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