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Tohono O'odhamSociolingistics

Language and AgeEdward Smith


In 2000, only

of Tohono O'odham speakers were under the age of 18

Relevant data


Why is This?


Million Native Americanskilled before the year 1600


Million total estimated deaths caused by colonization

Indian Boarding Schools

Throughout the USA's history, the Tohono O'odham people have experienced genocide and oppression especially towards their language. In the 19th and 20th centuries, boarding schools banned the use of Indigenous languages and students were harshly punished if they were to be caught using them.

Even today, Native speakers to the language don't often raise their children with it, due to the traumatic history associated with it. Parents teach their children English to save their children from the abuse.

Those under the age of 20 are unlikely to have the ability to comfortably speak in the Tohono O'odham language.

Tohono O'odham nation members who are comfortable speaking the language are generally above the age of 50.

According to a 2000 US Census


of Tohono O'odham members 5 and older speak English only


of Tohono O'odham members 5 and older speak a language other than English

"The suppression of indigenous languages is intricately associated with mental health problems. Indigenous youth with less knowledge of their native language are six times more likely to have suicidal ideation than those with greater language knowledge. Language suppression impairs self-identity, wellbeing, self-esteem, and empowerment; the key elements for individual and community healing."

Mental Health Effects

+ Citation Info

"Aboriginal youth who are capable of speaking native language are less likely to consume alcohol or use illicit substances at risky amounts, and are less likely to be exposed to violence."

Physical Effects

+ Citation Info

Hallett D, Chandler MJ, Lalonde CEAboriginal language knowledge and youth suicide. Cogn Dev. 2007; 22: 392-Cohen B, The spider's web: creativity and survival in dynamic balance.Can J Nat Educ. 2001; 25: 140-148


Gonzalez MB, Aronson BD, Kellar S, Walls ML, Greenfield BLLanguage as a facilitator of cultural connection. AbOrig. 2017; 1: 176-194