On February 28, the Piipaash elders held their monthly meeting at the Lehi Community Building to revitalize the Piipaash language with the help of the O’odham Piipaash Language Program (OPLP). Most of the topics the elders discussed were about the “word/phrase of the day,” which the OPLP is utilizing between tribal employees of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
OPLP Education Specialist Leota Standing Elk was the host of the gathering.
Two sisters, Violet Travis and Catherine Soroquisara, from Laveen on the Gila River Indian Community, travel to Lehi every last Tuesday of the month to help invigorate the Piipaash language.
“I’ve been coming since [the Piipaash Elders Gathering] started; I’m learning words,” said Travis.
Growing up in Laveen, Travis said she heard the Piipaash language spoken fluently in her home by her mother, father and other relatives.
“I had older brothers and sisters, but what I can remember [is] they were in St. John’s boarding school. When I got older, I went to boarding school too,” said Travis. “I forgot some of the words, but I was surprised that when I came home, I knew more of my language than they did, and I was gone.”
Soroquisara said, “There are some words that [are] different from what my mother taught me.” Soroquisara explained how she is learning and remembering by coming to the meetings.
Both sisters do not speak the Piipaash language to their children and grandchildren, but equally share the fact that one person in each of their families is interested in learning it.
Soroquisara said her grandson is trying to learn. “He asks me, ‘How do you say this?’ And I tell him,” said Soroquisara.
Travis says that her granddaughter and her great-grandchildren are learning simple words and phrases.
Both sisters agree that they want to see more people from Salt River and Lehi coming to the Piipaash Elders Gathering.
For more information on helping to revitalize the Piipaash language, call the Cultural Resources Department at (480) 362-6325.