Non-Native teaching Quileute tongue-twisting language

LAPUSH — Every word spoken in Quileute breathes new life into the ancient Native American language.

That’s the perception of anthropologist Jay Powell, who has taught two five-week “crash courses” in Quileute — properly pronounced Kwil-LAY-yute — at LaPush and who hopes to teach two more.

Without energetic efforts by tribal members and their teacher, the language could disappear.

Three, perhaps four, people can speak Quileute fluently.

When they are gone, all that remains will be phrases, greetings, ceremonies and songs.

Even those could vanish if it weren’t for the tribe’s hiring Powell to help teach and record the language.

Powell and his wife, Vickie Jensen, have worked with the outer coastal tribe since 1968, when 50 Quileute could speak their native language fluently — and the 600 other tribal members could not.

Powell’s efforts also have helped the tribe publish its first book, a dictionary that is expected to be released today to tribal members.

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