Episode Two brings us to the redwood forests of Northern California, home to Loren Bommelyn, the sole remaining fluent speaker of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ language. Tolowa, like other Indigenous languages, is interwoven with the ecosystem where it came into being and thus holds the traditional ecological knowledge of the Tolowa people. Along with many Native communities, the Bommelyn family is grappling with what is at stake—for their children, for their culture, and for the land itself—if they lose their language.
Adapted from our award-winning multimedia story, “Language Keepers,” this six-part podcast series explores the struggle for Indigenous language survival in California. Two centuries ago, as many as ninety languages and three hundred dialects were spoken in California; today, only half of these languages remain. In this series, we delve into the current state of four Indigenous languages which are among the most vulnerable in the world: Tolowa Dee-ni’, Karuk, Wukchumni, and Kawaiisu. Along this journey, we meet and learn from dedicated families and communities across the state who are working to revitalize their Native languages and cultures in order to pass them on to the next generation.
Listen to Language Keepers Episode 3
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Produced in partnership with Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival.
Directed, produced, and edited by Adam Loften
Produced and narrated by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
Original music by Matthew Atticus Berger and H. Scott Salinas
Narration written by Adam Loften, Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder, and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
Sound mix and design by D. Chris Smith
Sound recording by Ben Sultineau
Production assistance by Devin Tellatin
This series would not have been possible without the collaboration and support of the Tolowa Dee-ni’, Karuk, Wukchumni, and Kawaiisu communities featured in this podcast.