Searching for Lost City: On the Trail of America’s Native Languages

ISBN: 1592281958
ISBN 13: 9781592281954
By: Elizabeth Seay

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Indian Language Oklahoma Social Science To Read

About this book

First Prize Multicultural Non-Fiction, The Independent Publishers Book AwardsChoctaw, Creek, Sioux, Cherokee, and Ponca are just a few of the Native American tribal languages that are quickly moving towards extinction, down from the nearly six hundred that once existed. Experts predict that the number could drop to twenty by the middle of the century. Before they disappear completely, journalist Elizabeth Seay set out to track down what is left of these languages in her native Oklahoma. Her deeply felt narrative opens a window onto the quirks and intricacies of each language she encountered--and allows a glimpse into the last days of a vanishing culture.Seay finds a "lost city": Ross Mountain, a secret community in the Ozark Mountains where 90 percent of the people, from young to old, speak a Cherokee dialect as their first language. She meets leaders in the Indian community, from Toby Hughes, who weaves spells, to Charles Chibitty, the last Comanche code talker, and his granddaughter Lacey, for whom being a Comanche seems to be a weekend hobby. The result of Seay's journey is less a study in linguistics than a lively history lesson in cultural migration, forced assimilation, and the meaning of language itself.

Reader's Thoughts


2010- The title is a bit of a misnomer, the author's focus is on Native American languages within Oklahoma, with a real focus on Cherokee. This book had some very interesting sections, including when the author tries to find someone to teach her (a white woman) how to speak Cherokee. I only wished she had examined some other Native American languages in detail as well.


Fascinating book. The author spent time in Oklahoma researching dying languages, and looking for surviving speech communities. It was much less about linguistics than I thought it would be, but more about the big picture of language, what it means to a community, what it means for a language to die. I learned a lot about Native American cultures from this as well. The best chapter was about her attempt to learn Cherokee, and another that stood out introduced a couple of Seminole rappers.

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