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How To Learn Sign Language

Marie’s Dictionary

more than 130
Native American languages
are endangered.] [Several are on the verge
of extinction with
only a handful
of fluent speakers remaining.] A long time ago
there were no people,
only animals. Eagle, our leader,
said to the animals
we must make people. [How We Got Our Hands] All the animals
wanted people
to have hands like theirs. [San Joaquin Valley, California] My name is Marie Wilcox. My grandmother delivered me
Thanksgiving Day on November 24th, 1933. We only had a little
one-room house. Grandpa and grandma
always spoke our language,
Wukchumni. I just didn’t hear my grandma
speak too much English. Knock, knock, knock. Mom is our last
fluent speaker now since my dad’s uncle,
Felix Icho, passed away. When I was growing up
I spoke English. I don’t remember hearing Mom
speaking the Wukchumni language. Thank you. Mom worked in the fields. We picked a lot of fruit. And I think I missed
a lot of school but I don’t know for sure. I left my Indian language
behind when my grandma died. I didn’t speak
the language anymore until my sisters started
to teach the kids. Hearing the girls try
to speak their language again made me want to learn again. And I started remembering. I was very surprised
she could remember all that from age—young age
that her grandmother
had left her. She just started
writing down her words on envelopes and papers. And so she’d sit up
night after night typing on the computer which— she was never a computer person. I’m just a pecker. One word at a time. And I was slow. Just peck, peck, peck. So when I had
all these words together I thought it would be
a good idea to try to make a dictionary. I didn’t say that I wanted
to save it for anybody else to learn. I just wanted
to get it together. Every morning
I’d have my coffee and have a sandwich
or maybe oatmeal or whatever, and then I’d get right on that. It took many years for her
to do this dictionary. She loved doing it. She would work
many hours late at night, and get up
and work on it
during the day. And the X sound— Oh, that’s the hardest one
for everybody. I’ve been working
with Mom on this dictionary for all the years. And I’ve helped her a lot. The A right here. Oh, there. It made the “tr” sound
and the “ch” sound sounds a little bit
alike to me,
but I don’t— – You got it?
– I got it. I feel it. It’s very frustrating because she wanted to make sure I knew how to say
the words right. So if I would say something and she can’t hear that well— “That’s not how I said it.” I would kind of get scolded. We gotta go through
this whole thing again because I didn’t like
the sentences. – They didn’t make sense to me.
– Oh. It just seemed like
it would take forever. I am very surprised
that we’ve gotten
as far as we have. – Do you want your jacket?
– Yeah. Coyote and Lizard
wanted people
to have hands like theirs. Eagle said,
Coyote and Lizard
will run a race. Run to the top of the mountain, and whoever puts their hands
on top is the winner. Thank you. You’re welcome. All right now. Are you ready? Yes. Lake. Ocean. Sea. Me and my grandson
are trying to record
our dictionary from A to Z. The whole dictionary took me
about seven years. So that was a lot
of work for me. Language. Talk. Speak. See, I’m uncertain
about my language and who wants to keep it alive. Just a few. No one seems to want to learn. It’s sad. It just seems weird that I am the last one. And— I don’t know, it just— It’ll just be gone
one of these days maybe. I don’t know. It might go on or not. Put the rice in there. I know. Actually get the… Colander? Yes the colander. O.k. All of it? Maybe. More. That’s good. I think she has
a little confidence in me. But I know she has
more confidence in Donovan because the way
he’s really connecting with her and learning
the language so fast— because I’ve been working
on it all these years and I haven’t been able
to speak with her like he does. What now? You need a lid
like this for that. A little one. My role I feel is
to archive it all, make sure that
it gets documented and put somewhere
to where
a hundred years from now our families
will be able to access and to be able to speak. And it will keep going
with me and Donovan,
I know. Lizard was the first one
to put his hands on the big rock
and jumped up and down, laughing and saying
ha ha ha, I won. I won the race. Now people will have
hands like mine. [Marie’s dictionary
is the first
Wukchumni dictionary
to be created.] [It serves as an inspiration
to other Native American tribes
working to revitalize
their languages.] [Jennifer and Marie
are now teaching weekly
Wukchumni language classes
to members of their tribe.] [©2014]

100 Replies to “Marie’s Dictionary”

  • Rosetta Stone is doing this for free to those members of the tribe – They should contact this lady and tell her to contact Rosetta Stone.

  • "no one seems to want to learn" This may be because only one person in the world knows the language, and learning it would only be a waste of time.

  • Very moving video. It's so sad that the Spaniards ever had to come here and strip these wonderful people of their land, tribes, and languages. What this woman is doing should inspire all Native Americans to make sure they're language, and their people live on for centuries to come. 

  • What a beautiful video! I admire the hard work of the family, particularly the grandmother. I can only imagine how proud her ancestors must be and how thankful scholars and future generations will be for her hard work. The relationship she has with her grandson is beautiful, too. What a wonderful story!

  • Although always interested in Native Americans, I never knew of the Wukchumni (now I marvel at the melody of that tribal name!) But I had learned that the last thing of any culture to survive is its language, and I bow in deepest respect to this dear woman (and her family) who are preserving 10,000 years of experience. As the words survive so, too, at least in some respect, will this band of people. Teach on, Marie Wilcox, and let your students in turn carry the sounds of your ancestors that their voices will always ring through their lands now and to the the future and beyond the beyond forever. 

  • What a fantastic service not only to your tribe but to mankind, as well.   Keep up the good work and don't ever think you're wasting your time.

  • That's what's happens when a another culture and ppls invade your country just like they approve in every Western country as Europe, with mass immigration out of Africa and look what's happening in cities where they almost the majority of the ppl nothing then causing problems to our cultures and traditions… I feel sorry for the native Americans (Australians) putting them in reservations, what a disgrace they should give back their country and all take back all our Caucasian Americans back to Europe and build here a strong foundation of white cultures and traditions.  America isn't what it used to be either being white overthere is becoming a pain in the ass with all those fortune seeker coming form Mexico and black overpopulation and influences.  I can already see it's affecting lot of whites in America and the native AMericans well they like a dying breed overthere now ….

  • This woman is a hero! We need more people to rescue these ancient languages from extinction, so that any descendants of their speakers might once again learn. Language says a lot about a culture, & all are precious parts of our world's history.

  • I think shes so inspiring and a wonderful strong women. The history of Native Americans is a sad one just like all other tragedies that happen around us every single day. I get why people say things like this should be preserved and i get that and respect it but at the end of the day change is something we need to survive. We have been programmed its in our genes to constantly battle for survival even if we no threats that we had centuries ago. Humans continue to fight. I'm not saying its right its just a fact. Yes the culture and being of many races become extinct but their history is preserved. We are making new history and new cultures we may not see it now but a 100 years from now people will be looking back at certain things are are here today that wont be in the future. Its the circle of life and people should respect the preservation of it instead of disrespecting this womens efforts but should also understand that there is a bigger reason behind the extinction of cultures. 

  • I think this is a wonderful thing to do.  It's a real shame that the language has almost been lost, but how wonderful that Marie is so strongly motivated to preserve it and that she's doing such thorough and painstaking work to that end.  In my book, she, and those who are helping her deserve a medal.

  • Hmmmm, so many feelings on this…….you want the old languages to survive but as English and Spanish are the most popular, people are so busy they don't have time for these. As the native Americans marry other races/tribes/etc, the languages go by the wayside. Technology is making this large world seem smaller and smaller each day.

  • This is for the native language I just watched that is dieing everywhere . I'm Ojibway and would love to learn my language but I can't seem to find a dictionary that covers my language I'm willing to learn Cree at this point. There is nothing on line to help me look. I've tried. I'm disabled 60yrs. of age and this will not stop until I find something to help me learn my language. It was a no no way back then to speak native, or admit your Native. If anyone knows of such a book please concer with me. mamawind. I'm on Google+ to only those who are serious need to answer me please. Megeweech

  • I'm A 24 year old Mi'kmaq who is fluent in my language. Mi'kmaq is part of the Algonquian eastern woodland tribes of east coast Canada. Our speakers are declining rapidly, and it's a sad reality. I'm currently teaching my 4 year old, but I wish I had taught him sooner from birth rather than a year and a half ago. But, my point is, if you still speak your language fluently teach your children too, because our indigenous languages are dying out fast here in North America.

  • it's so great , great great work , thank you so much for sharing ! Pure knowledge, opening the eyes <3

  • What a great short! A wonderful way to express how odd and tragic it can be to be the last living person natively speaking its language.

  • Great job on the piece. Looked beautiful and edited superbly. I fell in love with this woman and her effort to keep her language alive. All the best to her and her family in their endeavor.

  • Her dictionary should be on kickstarter or something. i feel sorry for the language and culture she's trying to preserve all by herself.

  • Wow, she is such a beautiful woman! An inspiration and role model. I hope people in her tribe looks for learning the language she tries to maintain alive.

  • Very cool that Marie and her family are working so hard on keeping their native language alive. There have to be historians out there who would be interested in having a copy of her dictionary and audio dictionary to keep somewhere safe for future generations.

  • Thank you Mary Wilcox ..Peoples history is so very important..Bless you for caring enough to share this for it never to be forgotten .. keeps pecking peck peck peck 🙂 xxx Peace

  • With globalization and the internet, we're losing ancient languages at a spectacular rate … while this facilitates communication and trade, the loss of heritage and culture cannot be replaced … +

  • What an incredible and amazing lady… such a beautiful soul. This was a delight to watch, then you for the enlightenment.

  • What a beautiful and noble act. You are single handedly preserving the existence of your people's culture, for posterity. You are awesome, lady!

  • Fascinating.  It is sad that the Indian Nations are losing much of their languages.  Also,  sad for any other cultures facing this situation.  Language is like music.  Beautiful music.

    even his sons and grandsons had a bit of trouble translating Black Elk's story
    may you always keep the native language of this land alive!

  • I would come to learn your language I have picked up some Cheyenne and Lacota! I had a brother with speech impediment. I often had to look at people before I could understand. My grandmother was born with cleft of the soft pallet she never had it fixed; said she lived with it many years She died around 1980. She had a hard life; and I often was called upon to translate her words and if I got them wrong I would get scolded. I learned there are sounds I can not hear and I have to look one in the face and watch as they formed words to make mine correct. Much Like Spanish Bien in spanish I learned one form of pronouncing this word and many other words correct can mean from bien gracious etu (not good spelling english and other languages worse as old age is setting in). anyway, one pronoucing says I am fine, when pronounced similar but wrong means I bite you….. Mahaho Bless you for saving one of the American's native tongue…… aka language….. May the LIVING CREATOR WALK WITH YOU AND HELP YOU

  • As soon as I can reproduce this video, we will be showing it in the museum in Exeter, CA. It is a wonderful example of people preserving their own heritage for the future. Congratulations to Marie Wilcox for saving a language that is near extinction. Our California Indians have suffered a greater catastrophic calamity of their race than most of the North American tribes. Not that the other tribes were any better off. Thank you so much for saving your heritage.

  • What an example! Congrats to Marie for her realizing how important of a contribution she has is making to both the preservation and diversity of America's heritage.

  • I have watched Wade Davis' TED talk ("Dreams from endangered cultures") many times, this beautiful documentary highlights just what he's saying on language loss. Thank you Marie.

  • A very Inspiring lady. There is only 200 of her tribe left. I hope they are the ones to learn, speak and revive the language!

  • A sad yet beautiful story. I can tell she's sad about the fact that she may be the last one, but in usual native grandma fashion she can still laugh about it. They don't make em like they used to…

  • this video made me cry no i want to learn languages so i can write them done and i wish i could go out there and learn it too

  • I doubt there are words in ANY language to express my gratitude for Marie Wilcox.
    ALL can learn from it whether if they've maintained their family's language(s) or not.

  • this broke my heart but also was amazingly inspiring. i hope one day this language can gain a lot of fluent speakers; it's a tragedy that so many are gone or close to gone 🙁

  • This is among the, if not THE, best video(s) I've seen on youtube. How anybody can give it a td is rather confusing to me, no matter how many times I've watched it. Apparently some don't appreciate history or language, theirs or anybody else's.

  • she teaches these classes weekly in visalia at the owens career center. they have a lot of tribal languages that they teach there. if anyone is ever here in so cal, thats a cool place to visit.

  • Im from Mexico and i find this very inspiring, here we have a lot of native lenguajes that we must preserve but unfortunately nobody is doing it…

  • How would you say, beautiful and I love you❤️🇨🇦 greeting from Squamish Nation, N Van, BC Canada.🌸💕🌸

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