Bridging the Language Gaps from Preschool through College

The Yurok Tribe’s, located in Klamath, California, near the Oregon border, began surveying the number of Yurok speakers back in 1997. The results found 20 fluent Yurok language speakers in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Most of them had not used Yurok daily since they were small children. The Yurok Language Program initiated the Bridging the Language Gaps from Preschool through College, was created due to the loss of fluent Yurok speakers.

Bridging the Language Gaps from Preschool through College will develop the resources necessary to necessary to implement a comprehensive language program of high-quality Yurok Language instruction for language learners from preschool through college. Their teacher candidates will be taught Yurok language as they work towards obtaining a bachelor’s degree and teacher credentials to California state standards.

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The Yurok Tribe is the largest aboriginal tribe in the State of California, with over 5,000 members. The Yurok Reservation is located in the far northwest corner of California, 300 miles north of San Francisco, near the Oregon Border, in Klamath, California. The Reservation runs from the Pacific Ocean, near the town of Klamath, 45 miles upstream past the uppermost village of Weitchpec and encompasses one mile on either side of the Klamath River. The Yurok have continuously occupied the same traditional territory since before European contact, so they continue to live in many of the same village sites as their ancestors.

When the Yurok Tribe established a language restoration program in 1997 it conducted its first comprehensive study of the status of the Yurok Language. Twenty fluent speakers were identified and all the speakers were in their seventies, eighties and nineties. Most of these elders had not used the Yurok language as a daily means of communication since they were small children, starting school. It had been nearly 50 years since a child had learned to speak Yurok. Since 1997, the Yurok People have been working furiously to develop speakers. Language restoration efforts have resulted in impressive gains in the numbers of speakers at all age levels. In 2009, the Yurok Language Program developed its first seven conversationally fluent speakers. Currently, there are 24 conversational fluency second language learners; ten of these have passed the requirements for a Native Language Teaching Credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Each year around 300 language learners receive instruction in the Yurok Language. Saa’-a-goch is what the language is called in Yurok language.

The Yurok Language Project: Bridging the Language Gaps from Preschool through College, was created due to the loss of fluent Yurok speakers. The mission of the Yurok Language Program is to “restore the Yurok Language to the status of a living, flourishing language with speakers of all levels,” in which “Bridging the Language Gaps from Preschool through College” will play a large role.

The project goal is aligned with the Yurok Language Program mission in that it will develop the resources necessary to necessary to implement a comprehensive language program of high-quality Yurok Language instruction for language learners from preschool through college. To achieve this goal, three objectives will be met at the end of the cooperative agreement.

  1. Teacher candidates will gain the knowledge and fluency in Yurok Language necessary to pass the Advance Yurok Credential Assessment and will earn a Life-time Native Language Teaching credential issued by the Yurok Tribe in conjunction with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
  2. Teacher candidates will complete 200 hours of training in the teaching of Yurok Language and will provide a minimum of 200 hours of language instruction to language learners in pre-school through college and in community language classes.
  3. Teacher candidates will have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree and a Standard California Teaching Credential.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yurok Language Program found themselves pushing forward their distance learning plans sooner than expected. They were able to use a virtual platform to engage their teacher candidates during grammar pods and in language community classes as the transportation barrier was surmounted by the digital age. However, a couple of challenges emerged in regard to remoteness and lack of internet access to some of the teacher candidates and language mentors. The Yurok Language Program is working to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives for their NLCC project.

Below you will find the links Yurok Language Program’s media, website, and social media pages.

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