Wyatt is surrounded by a dozen middle and high school students,
all Chukchansi tribal members, with their eyes glued to the screen
of a tablet, smartphone or computer. She doesn't see mere students
she sees the next generation of Chukchansi speakers.
It's been 40 years since Wyatt has spoken her native Chukchansi
language. Now, she is ready to teach younger generations the words
her grandmother taught her.
"The language is fading fast," Wyatt said.
Wyatt and the students were at Fresno State on Thursday and
Friday to help create educational apps that teach the Chukchansi
language. The students are creating the artwork and some programming
for the apps, and Wyatt is providing the voice translation into
"One of the projects we've wanted to do is increase Chukchansi
literacy," said Kim Lawhon, the education coordinator of the
Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians.
Lawhon is a Chukchansi tribal member and also teaches at Coarsegold
Elementary. Some of her students at Coarsegold created artwork to
aid the project.
The apps aim to teach children and adults the Chukchansi language
in the style of an e-book. The stories are Chukchansi folklores
originally published in English in 1944. Now, the tribe is translating
the stories back into Chukchansi and using children's artwork to
The group plans to create 10 apps within the next two to three
One storybook app, Stinkbug, already is available for download.
The app features artwork created in May by Fresno State students
paired with Wyatt narrating the story in Chukchansi.
Behind the app development is Canadian-based Ogoki Learning
Systems, which specializes in creating educational language apps
for tribes nationwide.
Darrick Baxter, president of Ogoki Learning Systems, travels
around North America helping tribes teach their native languages
to younger generations.
"I want to see different tribes revitalizing and using
their language again," Baxter said. "That's why I do this."
Baxter said creating apps is the most effective way to engage
young people like the Chukchansi students to learn their native
"I couldn't believe how excited the kids were," Baxter
Audrey Hammond, 16, is a Chukchansi who attends Evergreen Continuation
High School in Oakhurst. Hammond says she knows more Japanese than
Chukchansi and wants to change that by learning the language her
"I hope to one day be fluent in the language," she
said. "My heritage makes me who I am."
Hammond spent the day creating sound effects for mobile games
that, along with the educational language apps, also will be available
for download in Apple's App Store and in the Google Play store.
The games feature characters who speak Chukchansi, which expose
children to the language, Baxter said.
With very few fluent Chukchansi speakers remaining, the tribe
hopes the apps will preserve the language in a new generation.
"Hopefully, they all become fluent speakers one day,"
Chukchansi Youth Tech Camp is creating a free
app at Fresno State which uses the Chukchansi language spoken to
tell traditional stories for children. (video: Eric Paul Zamora
- The Fresno Bee). To view the video, click
Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians
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