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Indigenous Materials in Special Collections

Indigenous Languages in Louisiana

Today, the only Indigenous languages with fluent speakers in Louisiana are the Caddo and Choctaw languages. There are approximately 10,000 Choctaw speakers in North America, while the Caddo language is considered to be critically endangered. Other local languages, such as those of the Chitimacha, Coushatta, Houma, Natchez, and Tunica-Biloxi peoples have no living speakers. The loss of most of Louisiana’s Indigenous languages is one of the most visible long term effects of colonization in this region. However, many tribes have developed language programs to revive, teach, and preserve their native languages. Some Louisiana Indigenous dialects belong to larger language groups, such as Muskogean, Siouan, or Caddoan languages. Others, such as the Chitimacha, Natchez, and Tunica languages, are considered “isolates” and do not possess any relation to other dialects. Many Indigenous languages spoken today are “diluted,” and contain traces of the majority languages that have been imposed upon Native communities (English, French, etc.). Travel journals describing contact between European settlers and Indigenous communities will sometimes contain translated words or phrases that would have been in use during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Suggested Subject Headings and Search Terms

Subject Headings

Atakapa language.

Biloxi language.

Caddo language.

Chitimacha language.

Choctaw language.

Indians of North America -- Languages.

Koasati language.

Louisiana -- Dialects.

Names, Indian.

Tunica language.

Search Terms

Indian languages

Native American languages

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