Preserving Choctaw Culture: Language

By: Candace Barnette Email
By: Candace Barnette Email

The Choctaw language has been a symbol of the tribe's culture throughout its existence, passed down from generation to generation. But many of the Choctaw people are wondering how long that will last.

"She said nowadays the younger kids are not learning Choctaw, so she feels that it is going to go; we're losing it."

Zula Chitto is in her 80s. Every day she only wears traditional dresses and only speaks Choctaw. Her granddaughter translates for her, as she only knows a handful of English words. The Choctaw language is taught in schools, but it is mostly taught from parents to children.

"It just started off when I was young," Samuel Pennington says. "My mom, my grandma, my whole family just started speaking it to me fluently."

But Pennington's story is unlike most. The younger generation has moved away from an interest in learning the Choctaw language in favor of a more popular choice.

"So now, I'd say the Choctaw language has declined more because we're so into speaking English," said Choctaw princess Lanena Grace John.

And the language that the youth use now is much different than what they call "Old Choctaw." It has evolved to incorporate more slang.

"She's always correcting me," Lindsey Gibon says of her grandmother Zula. "She's telling me you're bunching it up together and making it one word when you're supposed to say this long word and this word."

But the tribe isn't giving up. It's pushing forward now with more efforts than ever to keep the Choctaw language alive.

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