Education | National

Young members from Houma Nation work to revitalize language

Members of the United Houma Nation participate in a powwow. Photo from UHN / Facebook

Two young members of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana are trying to revitalize their tribe's language before it completely disappears.

Some elders still remember and use words in the language. But the preservation effort faces major challenges because there are few recordings or texts of Houma.

“We only have a handful of words left,” 62-year-old Janie Luster told The Washington Post. “The more time goes by, the more time we lose. Our elders are passing on.”

Hali Dardar and Colleen Billiot, both 25, are hoping to change that. They started with a recording that features Elvira Molinere Billiot, who was Billiot's great-grandmother, singing in the Houma language.

Within a few months, Dardar and Billiot have been able to create a small dictionary. They are working with linguists and educators to translate as many words as possible.

"The biggest role Hali and I play are being mediators between the tribal community and the academics,” Billiot told the Post. “It takes a lot of people to keep it going. Our being there when the linguists are there validates this project. It’s a matter of trust.”

The Houma language is believed to be closely related to the Choctaw language.

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Young members of Louisiana’s Houma Nation try to reclaim tribe’s lost language (The Washington Post 1/3)

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