One Man's Quest To Preserve Abenaki Language

Aug 3, 2015

One of the few Abenaki speakers in the world is Jesse Bowman Bruchac of Saratoga Springs, New York, and he's worked for most of his adult life to teach and preserve Abenaki.  "Every language holds within it an entire understanding of the world," says Bruchac. "When we lose a language, we've lost some of the diversity of human thought."

Bruchac's father was not a native speaker of Abenaki but instead learned the language from others, as did Bruchac when he was a teenager. Bruchac lived at the Odanak community in Quebec on and off for a decade, where he learned and taught the Abenaki language with some of the last native speakers there. He estimates there are fewer than 10 speakers of Abenaki alive today.

Bruchac is working as a native languages consultant on a film in South Africa, but we Skyped with him to learn about his work in keeping the Abenaki language alive.