Yurok Language Institute helps preserve language, culture

Open to anyone who wants to learn

The Yurok Language Institute teaches participants about the Yurok language. (Victoria Carlson — contributed)

The Yurok Language Institute, which teaches participants about the Yurok language, is going on through Dec. 30.

Hosted at United Indian Health Services in Arcata, the classes go from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Liz Lara-O’Rourke, the community health and wellness division director at UIHS, said she is always happy to host the institute.

“Language is intertwined in how we express ourselves and how we feel about the world,” she said. “For UIHS, it does play a big part in wellness … language really embraces our mission.”

Victoria Carlson, who comes from the village of Sregon and is the granddaughter of aa-wok Jimmie and Josephine James, is the Yurok language program coordinator. She said participants in the program primarily include people who are working towards becoming accredited Yurok language teachers, advanced Yurok speakers and non-native community members.

The institute began in the early 2000s as an eight-day course but was broken up into a four-day course that takes place twice a year.

“It’s a great time for our community, our language advocates, elders and language learners to get together and focus on the Yurok language,” she said. “It’s something that we have to keep going, keep learning, keep practicing and keep speaking.”

While the institute is almost two decades old, language revitalization efforts are much older, she said. Carlson said that in the 1950s and 60s, before the Yurok tribe was federally recognized, members of the tribe realized the need to record and document their language.

“This is something that’s been passed down orally since time immemorial,” Carlson said. “Our language and our culture go hand in hand.”

Carlson said each day of the institute begins with a study of the Yurok language structure, then moves into other activities such as language immersion or exercises lead by advanced Yurok speakers. She hopes the institute will increase the number of certified Yurok language teachers, which is one of the primary focuses of the program.

Currently, there are several elementary, middle and high schools in Humboldt County that teach Yurok as a world language, according to Carlson.

“More and more people are learning the language because they’re realizing how important it is to keep this going,” she said. “My dream is to see a Yurok language immersion school where everything is in Yurok. It’s going to take a while and it’s a long-term goal, but it’s something I think can definitely happen.”

If you go:

What: 2018 Yurok Language Institute

Where: 1600 Weeot Way, Arcata

When: Through Dec. 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.

Cost: Free

More info: 707-482-1350 or https://www.facebook.com/events/2276294265939078/

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.


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