Rare Language Fact File: Spokane

Native to: Northwestern USA

Number of native speakers: approximately 64

Spoken by: The Spokane Nation

Learn some: ʔa x̣est skʷekʷst (pronounced ‘ahh khest skwekst’) means ‘good morning’. For more, including audio, go to www.spokanelanguageculture.com

Interesting facts:

  • Spokane is the name given to a group of indigenous American tribes from this part of the country. It is commonly believed that the word ‘spokane’ means ‘children of the sun’. However, this is not exactly correct: Spokane was the name given to these tribes by white colonisers and is not used by indigenous people to refer to themselves. It seems that, while the word can mean sun, the name is simply a rendering of an 19th century tribal chief’s name into English.
  • We often think of indigenous Americans as nomads, and during the summer they did camp in the mountains, hunting and gathering food. But the Spokane Nation had permanent, underground homes along the Spokane River for the cold winter months.
  • The 19th century Gold Rush brought an influx of white settlers to the area, and in the scramble for land, many important religious and cultural sites were flooded, dug up or built upon. The Spokane people suffered the same fate as many other tribes, ending up on reservations where poverty and its attendant social problems were rife. The Nation was awarded a small amount of compensation by the US government in 1966 and again in 1981.

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