ethel’s words

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THE PASSING OF A PEOPLE

A mournful song sung at the grave of a Shoshone--and Shoshone-speaker--may as well have been a dirge for a language. I hope this pessimism is not justified.

How long can a language survive as its people dwindle into history, beaten back by the onslaught of powerful, aggressive Yankee-American culture?

Historians and linguists may record--in sound as well as visually on paper--the entire known lexicon of a people, but a language is a living, changing, life essential of a people, a culture, and what is saved is its bones, and not its living flesh.

But, from time immemorial, peoples and groups, their folkways and their languages, have developed, grown, and then faded from the sound of reality into codes on stone or clay or fragile fibers.

Whiteman governments may take note of the passing of peoples it destroyed or is destroying, but it is not manifest. Rather, even “noticing” is dropped into the dark hole of eternal sorrow.

Ethel C. Hale