(Press Release) The Chukchansi variety of the Yokuts language will be preserved and revitalized thanks to a $1 million gift from the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians to Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities for the Department of Linguistics.
The gift will provide funding for programs and research support to document, preserve and revitalize the Chukchansi language in collaboration with the Department of Linguistics.
Members of the tribal council say they have made great strides in recent years to sustain their language and culture, but only a handful of fluent Chukchansi speakers remain. This gift will support their efforts to keep the language alive.
"We are proud to make this gift as part of our efforts as a tribe to preserve, protect, and revitalize our cultural identity and traditions," said Tribal Chairman Reggie Lewis. "It is extremely important to us that the language of our ancestors is not lost and that future generations of Chukchansi are able to learn and speak our native language."
Since 2009, Fresno State faculty and students have worked with native speakers to devise a writing system and start the process of developing a Chukchansi dictionary and grammar. According to Dr. Vida Samiian, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, they have established a strong foundational understanding of the complex language but there is much left to be accomplished.
“This is a rare and exciting opportunity for the students and faculty of the Department of Linguistics,” said Dr. Samiian. “We are deeply honored to support the efforts of the Chukchansi people to revitalize and preserve their unique and historically significant language.”
According to Dr. Samiian, this gift from the Picayune Rancheria gives Fresno State the resources necessary to properly document the language so that it can be brought back into social and ritual use for the Chukchansi people.
The funds will be used to complete a grammar and dictionary, assemble native texts, create curriculum to teach the language to future generations and provide program and scholarship support.
This gift is part of the university’s Campaign for Fresno State, an initiative to raise $200 million for scholarship, faculty, programs and facilities. As of April the campaign had raised more than $184.5 million. It is the first comprehensive campaign in the university’s history and among the largest in the CSU system.