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Yurok Language Story

Saa’-a-goch – What the language is called in Yurok language.

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. 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. They were no longer at an age where they could implement immersion programs or even daily language sessions. 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.

The Yurok language program is important because it helps build a sense of community, strengthens bonds between families and helps give youth a sense of identity. It gives everyone something to be proud of as a people.  In addition, it helps to strengthen the cultural connection between language, cultural and ceremonial practices.

A the moment, unfortunately, there are zero fluent Yurok speakers. The Yurok Language Program mission is to “restore the Yurok Language to the status of a living, flourishing language with speakers of all levels”