Keeping Pomo Language Alive

In our offices near the Sonoma County Airport, an effort is underway every Monday and Wednesday night to preserve our ancient language on the cusp of extinction.

We gather there to learn and keep alive Southern Pomo, which was spoken for thousands of years on the Santa Rosa Plain, along the lower Russian River and in Dry Creek Valley.

Today, a handful of fluent, or “first-language” speakers survive, none younger than 90.

poster1 southern-pomo-iphoneThis is a beautiful language, and the thought of it dying is a tragedy.

The three nightly classes are taught by Alex Walker, a linguistics instructor who is writing his doctoral dissertation on Southern Pomo grammar.

This language says things we can’t, or don’t say, in English. Alex Walker is completing his PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has studied Southern Pomo language for the past decade after marrying a Dry Creek tribal member and raising four children together. He has put together a comprehensive language program that includes an amazing Southern Pomo Language App. for Android Smartphones.

Southern Pomo language classes are held at our administrative offices.

  • 3750 Westwind Boulevard, 200A – Santa Rosa CA 95403

Pomos from other area tribes are welcome to attend, including Lytton, Cloverdale, Kashaya, Graton and Round Valley.

There is a core group of 10 to 20 of us who take it very seriously because its means everything to us even though it is very difficult. We have someone new every time,” Multi-generations show up, ranging from 10-year-olds to people in their 80s.

Trying to learn it is both fun and difficult for tribal members.

It’s fantastically complex. It’s a language where many bits of meaning can be packed into one word.

We use 21st Century techniques: a giant TV monitor and a custom keyboard with the language’s 33-character alphabet that includes five variations of C and six variations of T.