Native Language Preservation Program
In June of 2004, Sonny Hendricks, a Tribal Elder, began work on the Native
Language Preservation Project. He was assisted by Debbie Colston from
the Cultural Department and Candra Neff from the Education Department.
On January 11, 2005 Sonny Hendricks, called the first Native Language
Preservation Program Committee meeting to order. The goal of this group
was to create a Me-Wuk dictionary. Sixteen Elders of the Community were
invited to be language consultants for the Language Program. Anyone interested
in bringing back the language was invited to attend. During monthly meetings
Me-Wuk words were remembered by the group and written down. Unfortunately,
since the start of this Program four of these consultants have passed
"Up until the 1950s the Central Sierra Miwok language
was spoken fluently by a majority of the Elders of the
Tribe. Those Elders, however, were part of about two generations
between about 1890 and 1930 who, as young children, were
forcibly taken away from their families at a very early
age and were sent to government Indian Schools. This was
an attempt by the federal government to assimilate them
into the non-Indian society and remove all traces of Indian-ness
from them…The effect of the Indian School was the greatest
loss of culture that anyone could imagine…Today most tribes
are trying to remember, retrieve and preserve as much of
their fragmented culture as they can…"
Sonny Hendricks presented this to the Native Language
Preservation Committee on January 11, 2005.
In April 2007 the first Draft of the dictionary was created.
The committee decided that an agreed upon way to write
the language was needed. A linguist would be required to
further the program. Several linguists were contacted.
Eva Hendricks, 1950's photo
In December 2007, linguist, Sheri Tatsch, PhD, presented
a language workshop on a Community-based Writing System.
The purpose of the workshop was to start the process of
deciding a way to write the language that everyone could
agree on (practical orthography). It was decided that more
research was needed to be done.
On April 4-6, 2008, three interested people from the Me-Wuk
community attended the Language is Life Conference, at
Marin Headlands in Sausalito, California. The Conference
was sponsored by the Advocates for Indigenous Language
Survival (AICLS). Members from California Tribes from all
over the state interested in learning the latest in best
practices for revitalizing indigenous languages attended.
June 8-14, 2008 three interested people from the Me-Wuk
community attended the Breathe of Life Conference in Berkeley,
CA. The goal of the conference was for participants to
access, understand, and do research on materials on their
languages, including learning the fundamentals of linguist
analysis for language revitalization.
Currently the Native Language Preservation Program is
working on how to write the language (orthography) in a
way that will be understandable for as many people as possible.
The following individuals are acknowledged within the
tribal community as consultants, having the experience
and knowledge of the traditions, culture, language and
family history of the Tuolumne Rancheria. January 11,
- Gary Bailey
- Zandra Bietz
- Andrew Carsoner
- Tom Carsoner
- James Cox
- Jerry Cox
- Robert Cox
- Mildred Hawkins
- Russell Hendricks
- Sonny Hendricks
- Vern Herzer
- Phyllis Montgomery
- Helen Wessell
- Renee Wessell
- Lawrence Wilson
- Ruth Wilson
Kenneth Cox, Michael Cox, David Cox