Hersha puuhi! Greetings!
There haven’t been any known native speakers of the Ramaytush language for over one hundred years! Alfred Kroeber, cultural anthropologist and professor at University of California, Berkeley (b.1876-d.1960), declared the Ramaytush people extinct in 1915. For reasons related to survival, indigenous California people went underground with their identity and, in great likelihood, out of fear, would not have volunteered to help anthropologists with linguistic surveys. Hence, the academic world perceived the Ramaytush-speaking people as extinct. Not surprisingly, the list of recorded Ramaytush words is limited.
Together with several linguists at the Breath of Life program at UC Berkeley, I was able to research in the archives at the Bancroft Library and add to the list of known Ramaytush vocabulary words. One such example includes the original Ramaytush name for San Francisco: Tunitkayumu ‘At the edge of the ocean’.
The Ramaytush naming of place demonstrates how important learning Indigenous languages is to understanding the lived relationships my ancestors had and the interconnectedness they felt to the natural world around them.
The word “umu” ‘ocean’ had not previously been on our Ramaytush language list; yet it is such an important word for our coastal society!
I am grateful to have met so many other California natives at the Breath of Life conference who are on the same path of recovering and revitalizing their languages. I was deeply inspired by them all!
And I am grateful to Breath of Life for connecting me with so many linguists who are enthusiastically willing to work with the Muchia Te’ Indigenous Land Trust in developing our own Ramaytush language program in the near future.
Xayatspanee! ‘thank you’