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O'odham Piipaash Language Program

Welcome to the O'odham Piipaash Language Program

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Our Vision

To save the Onk Akimel O'odham and Piipaash Languages.

To develop speakers at all age levels.

To hear the languages of the O’odham and Piipaash being spoken in all domains of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Responsibilities

To provide opportunities for SRPMIC members to learn and acquire the O’odham and Piipaash Languages using a variety of structured, natural and traditional approaches.

To nurture and cultivate the O’odham and Piipaash Languages by planning, promoting and providing opportunities to use and experience the languages in a broad range of contexts.

To develop and distribute materials to SRPMIC members for the purpose of O’odham and Piipaash Language advocacy, promotion, instruction, development, and general awareness.

To research, record, and document the O’odham and Piipaash Languages for maintenance and preservation to assure the survival and vitality of the Languages for SRPMIC members.

What We Have to Offer

O'odham Piipaash Bingo

O'odham Immersion and Piipaash Language Classes

O’odham and Piipaash Language Based Cultural Arts Classes

Quarterly O’odham and Piipaash Language Based Community Social Activities

Assist community members and departments with translations, spellings and cultural information

Organized gatherings for Elders pertaining to the O’odham and Piipaash Languages

Provide interview opportunities for SRPMIC tribal Elders and cultural practitioners (e.g. singers, dancers, basket weavers, potters, etc.)

Background and Status of the O'odham Ñiokĭ (Pima Language)

The O’odham language is part of the large language family known as Uto-Aztecan. More specifically, it belongs to the subfamily called Tepiman. The Tepiman group of Uto-Aztecan languages extends from Phoenix, Arizona to Durango, Mexico. The Tepiman languages, though related, are not all mutually intelligible. However, local O’odham speakers can communicate to some degree with O’odham living a thousand miles south, deep into Mexico.

In the state of Arizona, O’odham is spoken by members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community and Tohono O’odham Nation. There are distinct dialect differences that exist between (and within) each of these communities, but the differences are minimal and speakers can generally communicate with little or no difficulty. One of the more obvious differences is that Tohono O’odham uses a /w/ where Akimel O’odham uses a /v/.

According to Ethnologue: Languages of the World, there were an estimated 14,000 O’odham speakers in the United States as of 2007. Most current estimates would indicate the present number of speakers is much lower. Nevertheless, the O’odham language has one of the largest overall number of speakers as compared other indigenous languages of the United States. The vast majority of those speakers, however, reside in the more isolated desert villages of southern Arizona. The SRPMIC is the northernmost O’odham-speaking community and is enveloped by the Phoenix metropolitan area. Consequently, fewer than 3% of enrolled SRPMIC members are fluent O’odham speakers.

Ethnologue classifies the O’odham language as ‘Threatened’, defined as, “The language is used for face-to-face communication within all generations, but is losing users.” Within the SRPMIC, however, the O’odham language is more accurately classified as ‘Moribound’, defined as, “The only remaining active users of the language are members of the grandparent generation and older.”

O’odham language survival is an increasingly important issue for the SRPMIC, and revitalization efforts are in place to nurture future speakers. As a result of these efforts, children in the Community now know more O’odham language than their parents (in many cases), though they are yet far from fluent. We hope this website will be a supportive resource to new learners of all ages and will contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of our O’odham language.

Visit our O'odham Orthography page for more detailed information on the O’odham writing system used in Salt River.

Background and Status of the Piipaash Chuukwer (Maricopa Language)

The Piipaash language is part of the Yuman language family. The Yuman languages are spoken by tribes throughout the western half of Arizona, Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. The Yuman language family consists of four major branches:

River – Maricopa, Quechan, Mohave

Pai – Yavapai, Hualapai, Havasupai, Paipai

Delta California – Cocopah, Kumeyaay

Kiliwa – (a single language)

Although the Yuman languages are related, they are not all mutually intelligible. According to one study conducted in 1956, Piipaash speakers found Quechan 98% intelligible and Mohave 67% intelligible. The same test suggested that Piipaash speakers found the Pai languages intelligible within a range of 10%-18%. The remaining Yuman languages were not included in that study but the percentage of intelligibility for the Delta-California languages would have likely tested slightly higher than the Pai languages, whereas Kiliwa would have likely tested lower.

Maricopas have not always been a single homogenous group with regard to cultural identity and language. Modern Maricopas are descended from an historical amalgamation of closely related and allied Yuman groups who, prior to the 1820s, resided in various places along the Gila and Colorado Rivers. Each of these groups formerly maintained distinct cultural identities and dialects:

Piipaa Nyaa (aka Thxpaa Nyaa)

Xalychidom Piipaash

Kavelychidom Piipaash

Xalkawaam

Kaxwaan

As these groups merged in the early 1800s, so too did their dialects. Over time, the distinct dialects largely blended, but not completely. Some amount of diversity still exists among Piipaash speakers. Today there are two communities of Piipaash speakers. The west side of the Gila River Indian Community is home the larger population of Piipaash (historically spelled Pee Posh). Those of us living in the Lehi District of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community are primarily identified as Xalychidom Piipaash.

According to the Ethnologue: Languages of the World, there were an estimated 100 Piipaash speakers as of 2007. Most current estimates would indicate the current number speakers is much lower. The Piipaash language is considered to be among the more endangered indigenous languages in the United States. The actual number of fluent first-language Piipaash speakers in the SRPMIC is fewer than ten.

Ethnologue classifies the Piipaash language as Shifting, defined as, “The child-bearing generation can use the language among themselves, but it is not being transmitted to children.” In the SRPMIC and elsewhere, the Piipaash is more accurately described as Nearly Extinct, defined as, “The only remaining users of the language are members of the grandparent generation or older who have little opportunity to use the language.”

Piipaash language survival is an increasingly important issue for the SRPMIC, and revitalization efforts are in place to nurture future speakers. As a result of these efforts, children in the Community now know more Piipaash language than their parents (in many cases), though they are yet far from fluent. We hope this website will be a supportive resource to new learners of all ages and will contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of our Piipaash language.

Visit our Piipaash Orthography page for more detailed information on the Piipaash writing system used in Salt River.