Saturday, November 1, 2008

Last Fluent Mandan Speaker Turns 77

Twin Buttes, North Dakota --

Edwin Benson of the Fort Berthold Reservation is believed to be last person to speak the Mandan language fluently.

Recently turning 77, he has cut back his hours at the Twin Buttes school, where he has taught the language from the past 16 years, from full time to part time.

“Grandpa” Benson and his helpers work to document as much of the language as they can. He marks the steep decline of Mandan language use to two incidents: the relocation the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa communities in the 1950’s to allow construction of Garrison Dam, and the prohibition against speaking Mandan in the classroom.

My cousins and friends, there are at least 20 North American languages spoken fluently by ten people or less. Cherokee is in a better position because of the sheer number of Cherokee people, but the fluent speakers are increasingly elderly.

You can be part of the solution, and preserve our language by enrolling today.

- Brian Wilkes

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