Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - A report with estimates of the American Indians and Alaska Natives who speak their Native languages at home was released yesterday by the United States Census Bureau. Overall, the report's findings indicate American Indian and Alaska Native languages are highly at risk of extinction, with slight exceptions.
Of the 5.4 percent Native speakers, Only 1 in 10 are Native Children
The report called "Native North American Languages Spoken at Home in the United States: 2006-2010" is the first time ever the Census Bureau has tracked the use of languages by American Indians and Alaska Native. The study was part of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey Briefs that surveyed Americans over five years.
Sadly, only 5.4 percent of respondents indicated they could speak a Native North American language.
Data in the report are for American Indians and Alaska Natives who live on reservations or trust lands. The term used in the report is government term called American Indian or Alaska Native area.
Yupik is the Dominate Spoken Alaskan Native Language
The exceptions to the overall findings were among the Navajo, Yupik and Dakota. The most commonly spoken Native North American language was Navajo, with more than 169,000 people speaking this language nationally. The number of Navajo speakers was nearly nine times larger than the second and third most commonly spoken languages of Yupik and Dakota, with each having about 19,000 speakers.
Native North American Language Map by County
Sixty-five percent of Native North American language speakers lived in just three states, Alaska, Arizona and New Mexico. Nine counties within these states contained half the nation's Native American language speakers. Apache County in Arizona had 37,000 speakers of a Native American language, making it the highest in the nation. McKinley County, New Mexico, had the second most speakers at 33,000.
Together, about 20 percent of all Native American language speakers in the nation lived in these two counties.
Older American Indians and Alaska Natives reported speaking a Native North American language more often than younger people. Over one in five of those 65 or older could speak such a language, compared to only one in ten of those between 5 and 17 years old.
Given the heavy historic Spanish influence in America's Southwest, surprising enough some five percent of American Indians living in the region could speak Spanish, which is almost as much as the combined Native North American languages nationwide of 5.4 percent spoken by American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The report substantiates the fact Native languages have been lost the vast majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives. For decades, the languages were literally beat out of American Indians by non-Indian authoritative figures in boarding schools, where Indian students were forbidden to speak their languages.
updated 10:20 am est; posted December 9, 2011 6:50 am est
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