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Umatilla River > Culture > Language

The Umatilla and Walla Walla dialects of the Sahaptin language were very different from the Cayuse language isolate. Now that the Cayuse language is extinct, save about 350 documented words, most Cayuse descendants who speak a native language speak lower or upper Nez Perce. The few persons who speak Walla Walla as a first language are all elders. Those who speak Umatilla as a first language are a handful of adults, and the rest elders.

Like the landscape and all the species that inhabit the Blue Mountains and the Columbia River Plateau, the languages have undergone many dramatic changes in the past 200 years.

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Kathleen Gordon
Loss of Language


Website Referral

Breathing Life Back Into Native Languages
Here is a very long story on the effort to revive the almost lost languages of the Umatilla, and Walla Walla. Not enough of the Cayuse language survived for anyone to reconstruct it.

Confederated Umatilla Journal
Award-winning official newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation