Family at the Heart of Chickasaw Language Reclamation




Chew, Kari A. B.

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American Indian Quarterly


Located in south- central Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation faces unprecedented language loss. Because of colonization and forced assimilation, the intergenerational transmission of the Chickasaw language—Chikashshanompa’—has been interrupted in families, leading to devastating and rapid language decline. In 1994 there were an estimated one thousand Chikashshanompa’ speakers. Currently, there are about seventy remaining speakers, all of whom are elders. While a small but increasing number of second-language learners speak the language at a level of conversational fluency, new generations do not speak Chikashshanompa’ as a first language. As a result, community members are growing increasingly aware of the urgency surrounding language loss and the necessity for language reclamation. Currently, a small group of dedicated Chickasaw citizens and allies are working to restore Chikashshanompa’ as a healthy and vibrant language of the community. Significantly, family has emerged as being at the heart of their efforts.




Chew, K.A.B. (2015). Family at the Heart of Chickasaw Language Reclamation. The American Indian Quarterly 39(2), 154-179. Project MUSE,