Of the Native American languages of the U.S., 90% are not being passed on to a new generation. There were 312 American Indian languages in use when Europeans first arrived in North America; of these, 123 (40%) are known to have lost all native speakers. Of those that remain, all except two are endangered. Only 20 of these (13%) are being learned by children, and by fewer children each year.

Most of these languages will cease to be spoken in your lifetime, if language revitalization programs are not successful.

 

The first two steps down the endangerment scale are levels 6b (Threatened) and 7 (Shifting). These two levels have in common that intergenerational transmission is in the process of being broken, but the child-bearing generation can still use the language. These languages are referred to as “In Trouble” languages.

Since parents can still use the language, it is not too late to restore natural intergenerational transmission in the home. It is possible that revitalization efforts could revive use of these languages.

The next endangered language category includes levels 8a through 9 which are classed as “Dying” languages. In these languages, the child-bearing generation is no longer able to transmit the language to the next generation, since the only fluent users (if any remain) are above that age. Revitalization efforts would need to develop mechanisms outside the home in order to transmit the language to a new generation of speakers.

Finally, there are the "Extinct" languages at level 10. These languages have fallen completely out of (even symbolic) use, since there are no fluent speakers left, and no one retains a sense of ethnic identity associated with the language.

The disappearance of an individual language constitutes a monumental loss of scientific information and cultural knowledge, comparable in gravity to the loss of a species. Specific knowledge is often held by the smaller speech communities of the world—knowledge of medicinal plants and cures, identification of plants and animals yet unknown scientifically, new crops, etc. When the language is not learned by the next generation, the knowledge of the natural and cultural world encoded in the language typically fails to be transmitted.

Language is the most efficient means of transmitting a culture, and it is the owners of that culture that lose the most when a language dies. Every culture has adapted to unique circumstances, and the language expresses those circumstances. While a community may not lose its sense of identity when it loses its language, identity is closely associated with language.

All peoples identify their culture as closely with their languages as with their religion. What we talk about, think, and believe is closely bound up with the words we have, so the history of a culture can be mapped in its language.

Today, 178 indigenous languages in the United States are considered to be "Endangered." They are:

 

  • Achumawi (aka Achumawi, Achomawi, Pitt River)
  • Acoma-Laguna (aka Western Keres Pueblo, Western Keresan, Acoma)
  • Ahtna (aka Ahtena, Nabesna, Tanana)
  • Alabama (aka Alibamu,)
  • Aleut (aka Unangany, Unangan, Unanghan)
  • Arapaho (aka Arrapahoe, Northern Arapaho, Arapaho-Atsina)
  • Arikara (aka Ree, Ricara, Arikari)
  • Assiniboine (aka Assiniboin, Stoney, Hohe)
  • Atsugewi (aka Atsugewi, Hat Creek,)
  • Balkan Romani (aka Balkan Romani, Romany, Gypsy)
  • Blackfoot (aka Pikanii, Blackfeet, Siksika)
  • Caddo (aka Kadohadacho, Petit Caddo, Upper Nasoni)
  • Cahuilla
  • Carpathian Romani (aka Romani, Carpathian, Romany, Cigány)
  • Catawba (aka Catawaba,)
  • Cayuga
  • Central Alaskan Yup'ik (aka Central Alaskan Yupik, Yupik, Yup'ik (Central))
  • Central Pomo (aka Oat Valley, Pomo, Central, Ballo-Kai-Pomo)
  • Central Siberian Yupik (aka St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Yupik, Central Siberian, St. ...)
  • Cherokee (aka Iroquois, Tsalagi, Tslagi)
  • Cheyenne
  • Chickasaw (aka Chicasa,)
  • Chimariko (aka Chimariko, Chimalekwe, Chimalakwe)
  • Chinook Wawa (Chinook Jargon) (aka Chinook Jargon, Chinook Pidgin,)
  • Chitimacha
  • Chiwere (aka Oto, Iowa-Oto,)
  • Choctaw
  • Coast Miwok (aka Costal Miwok, Miwok (Bodega), Miwok (Coast))
  • Cocopa (aka Cocopá, Cocopah, Cucupá)
  • Coeur d'Alene (aka Snchitsu'umshtsn, snčícuʔumšcn, Skitswish)
  • Columbian (aka Columbia-Wenatchi, Wenatchi-Columbia, Moses-Columbia)
  • Comanche
  • Crow (aka Apsaalooke, Apsaroka, Apsaloka)
  • Cupeño (aka Agua Caliente,)
  • Dena'ina (aka K'naia-khotana, Tanaina, Kinayskiy)
  • Eastern Pomo (aka Clear Lake, Pomo, Eastern, Clear Lake Pomo)
  • Eastern Yiddish (aka Central Yiddish, Judeo-German,)
  • Eel River Athabaskan (aka Saiaz, Eel River Athapaskan)
  • Eyak
  • Flathead (aka Kalispel, Kalispel-Pend d'Oreille, Kalispel-Pend D'oreille)
  • Gros Ventre (aka Atsina, Gros Ventres, White Clay People)
  • Gwich'in (aka Loucheux, Kutchin, Kuchin)
  • Halq'eméylem (Halkomelem) (aka Halkomelem, Hul’q’umi’num’, Halq'eméylem)
  • Han (aka Han-Kutchin, Moosehide, Dawson)
  • Hanis (aka Coos, Coos (Hanis), Anasitch)
  • Hawai'i Sign Language (aka Hawaii Sign Language, Hawai'i Pidgin Sign Language, Pidgin ...)
  • Hawaiian (aka 'Ōlelo Hawai'i, 'Ōlelo Hawai'i Makuahine,)
  • Hidatsa (aka Gros Ventre, Minitari, Duan)
  • Holikachuk (aka Upper Innoko, Innoko,)
  • Hopi (aka Tusayan, Moki, Moqui)
  • Hupa (aka Hoopa-Chilula, Hupa-Chilula-Whilkut, Hoopa)
  • Ingalik (aka Kaiyuh-khotana, Deg Hit'an, Deg Xinag)
  • Inupiaq (aka Inuit, Inuvialuktun)
  • Jemez (aka Towa,)
  • Jicarilla Apache (aka Jicarilla, Hikariya, Apache (Jicarilla))
  • Kansa (aka Kansa, Kansas, Kaw)
  • Karuk (aka Karok, Karuk, Quoratem)
  • Kashaya (aka Southwestern Pomo, Southwest Pomo, Kashayn)
  • Kawaiisu
  • Kickapoo (aka Kikapoo, Kikapú,)
  • Kiowa (aka Kiowan,)
  • Kiowa Apache (aka Oklahoma Apache, Plains Apache, Kiowa-Apache)
  • Klallam (aka Clallam, S'klallam, Na'klallam)
  • Klamath-Modoc (aka Lutuami, Modoc, Klamath)
  • Koasati (aka Coushatta, Koasáti,)
  • Kodiak Russian Creole
  • Konkow (aka Maidu, Maidu, Northwest, Meidoo)
  • Koyukon (aka Kuyukon, Koyukukhotana, Ten'a)
  • Ktunaxa (Kootenai) (aka Kutenai, Kootenai, Kootenay)
  • Kumeyaay (aka Campo, Comeya, Cuchimí, Kamia, Kamiai, Kamiyahi, Kamiyai, Ki-Miai, ...)
  • Ladin (aka Ladino, Dolomite, Rhaeto-Romance)
  • Ladino (aka Judeo-Spanish, Sephardic, Hakitia)
  • Lake Miwok (aka Miwok (Lake), Miwok, Lake,)
  • Lakota (aka Lakhota, Lakȟótiyapi, Teton)
  • Lipan (aka Apache, Lipan, Eastern Apache,)
  • Louisiana Creole French
  • Lower Chehalis (aka Chehalis, Lower, ɬəwʼálʼməš,)
  • Lower Chinook (aka Chinook, Chinookan, Coastal Chinook)
  • Lower Tanana (aka Tanana, Nabesna, Tanana (Lower))
  • Lower Umpqua (aka Umpqua, Ku-itc,)
  • Luiseño (aka Luiseño-Juaneño,)
  • Lushootseed
  • Maidu (aka Northeastern Maidu, Mountain Maidu, Northeast Maidu)
  • Makah (aka Kwe-Nee-Chee-Aht, Kweedishchaaht, Macaw)
  • Maliseet-Passamaquoddy (aka Passamaquoddy-Maliseet, Malecite-Passamaquoddy, Pennacook)
  • Mandan
  • Maricopa (aka Piipaash, Pee Posh, Cocomaricopa)
  • Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (aka MVSL,)
  • Menominee (aka Menomini,)
  • Mescalero-Chiricahua (aka Chiricahua, Mescalero, Chiricahua-Mescalero)
  • Mexican Sign Language (aka Lenguaje de Signos Mexicano, Lenguaje Manual Mexicana, Lenguaje ...)
  • Mi'kmaq (aka Micmac, Mi'gmaq, Mi'gmaw)
  • Miami-Illinois (aka Myaamia, Miami, Miami-Illinois)
  • Michif (aka Plains Cree-French Mixed Language, French Cree, Mitchif)
  • Mikasuki (aka Hitchiti, Mikasuki Seminole, Miccosukee)
  • Mohawk (aka Kanien'kehaka,)
  • Mojave (aka Mohave, Amaquaqua, Jamajab)
  • Mono (California) (aka Monachi, Saidyuka, Mono (in United States))
  • Munsee (aka Delaware, Ontario Delaware, Munsee Delaware)
  • Muskogee (aka Creek, Northern Muskogean, Creek-Seminole)
  • Navajo (aka Navaho, Diné,)
  • Nez Perce (aka Shahaptan, Chopunnish, Nimipu)
  • Nisenan (aka South Maidu, Neeshenam, Pujuni)
  • Northern Paiute (aka Paiute, Northern, Paviotso, Paiute (Northern))
  • Northern Pomo (aka Redwood Cañon, North Pomo, Pomo (Northern))
  • Northern Straits Salish (aka Malchosen, Lekwungen, Semiahmoo)
  • Okanagan-Colville (aka Nsyilxcən, Okanagan, Colville-Okanagan)
  • Omaha-Ponca (aka Uman, Omaha, Mahairi)
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga (aka Onandaga, Onondoga,)
  • Osage (aka Wazhazhe,)
  • Otoe (aka Oto, Jiwere, Jiwele)
  • Ottawa (aka Odawa,Odaawaa, Eastern Ojibwa)
  • O’odham (Pima-Papago) (aka Upper Piman, Papago, Nebome, Nevome, O’othham, Papago-Pima, Tohono ...)
  • Pacific Yupik (Alutiiq) (aka Pacific Gulf Yupik, Alutiiq, Sugpiak)
  • Panamint (aka Panamint Shoshone, Tümpisa Shoshone,Timbisha)
  • Pawnee (aka Grand Pawnee, Republican Pawnee,)
  • Pennsylvania German (aka Pennsylvania Deitsh, Pennsylvanish, Pennsylvania Dutch)
  • Picuris (aka Taos-Picuris,)
  • Piemontese (aka Italian (Turinese), Piedmontese,)
  • Pingelapese (aka Pingelap, Pingilapese,)
  • Plains Indian Sign Language (aka Plains Sign Language,)
  • Plains Miwok (aka Miwok (Plains), Miwok, Plains, Valley Miwok)
  • Plautdietsch (aka Geldersch, Low German, Mennonite German)
  • Potawatomi (aka Pottawotomi, Bodéwadmi, Bodewadmi)
  • Quapaw (aka Arkansas, Arkans, Alkansea)
  • Quechan (aka Yuma, Kechan, Quecl)
  • Quileute (aka Quillayute, Quile-ute,)
  • Rio Grande Keresan (aka Rio Grande Keresan, Eastern Keresan, Eastern Keres Pueblo)
  • Sahaptin
  • San Francisco Bay Costanoan (aka Čočenyo, Northern Costanoan, Northern Ohlone)
  • Sauk-Fox (aka Fox, Mesquakie, Meskwakie)
  • Scottish Gaelic (aka Gaelic, Scottish, Gaelic (Scots), Scottish Gaelic)
  • Seneca (aka Tsonnontouan, Taroko,)
  • Serrano (aka Serran, Kitanemuk,)
  • Shawnee
  • Shoshone (aka Shoshoni, Shoshoni-Goshiute, Shonshoni)
  • Sierra Miwok (aka Central Sierra Miwok: Tuolumne, Central Sierra Miwok Northern ...)
  • Sioux (aka Dakota, Santee,)
  • Skagit (aka Swinomish, Skaǰət,)
  • Sm̓algya̱x (aka Sm'algyax, Tsimshian, Coast Tsimshian)
  • Southeastern Pomo (aka Pomo, Southeastern, Lower Lake Pomo, Southeast Pomo)
  • Southern Pomo (aka Russian River, Pomo, Southern, Gallinoméro)
  • Southern Tiwa (Isleta-Sandia) (aka Tiwa (Southern), Isleta-Sandia,)
  • Southern Tsimshian (aka Sgüüxs, Sguxs, Old Klemtu)
  • Southwestern Ojibwa (aka Ojibwe (Minnesota), Ojibwa, Ojibway)
  • Spokane (aka Flathead-Kalispel-Spokane, Spokan, Montana Salish-Kalispel-Spokane)
  • Tanacross (aka Transitional 2,)
  • Taos (aka Northern Tiwa, Tiwa, Northern, Tiwa)
  • Tewa (USA)
  • Tipai (aka Tiipay (Jamul), Mexican Diegueño, Kamia)
  • Tlingit (Łingít) (aka Tlinkit, Thlinget, Inland Tlingit)
  • Tolowa (aka Smith River, Chetco-Tolowa, Tolowa-Chetco)
  • Tubatulabal (aka Tübatulabal, Kern River, Kern)
  • Tunica (aka Tonika, Tunixka)
  • Tuscarora (aka Skarohreh,)
  • Unami (aka Oklahoma Delaware, Lenni-Lenape, Lenape)
  • Upland Yuman (aka Havasupai-Walapai-Yavapai, Upper Colorado River Yuman, Northern Pai)
  • Upper Kuskokwim (aka Kolchan, Kuskokwim (Upper), Kuskokwim, Upper)
  • Upper Tanana (aka Nabesna, Tanana, Upper,)
  • Ute (aka Ute-Southern Paiute, Pai Ute, Paviotso)
  • Vlax Romani (aka Romani, Vlax, Romany, Romenes)
  • Wampanoag (aka Wôpanâak, Massachusett-Narragansett, Massachusett)
  • Wappo (aka Ashochimi, Napa,)
  • Wasco-Wishram (aka Kiksht, Wasco, Wishram)
  • Washo (aka Washoe, Washoa,)
  • Western Abenaki (aka Abenaki (Western), Abnaki (Western), Abnaki, Western)
  • Western Apache (aka San Carlos-Southern Tonto, San Carlos Apache, White River ...)
  • Wichita (aka Witchita, Wichita (proper),)
  • Winnebago (aka Ho-Chunk, Hocak Wazijaci, Hocák)
  • Wintu (aka Colouse, Wintun, North Wintun)
  • Wiyot (aka Wishosk, Kowilth, Wiyoshk)
  • Xaad Kil (Haida) (aka Haida, K'iis Xaat'aay, Northern)
  • Yaqui (aka Yaki, Cahita, Yaqui-Mayo)
  • Yokuts
  • Yuchi (aka Euchee,)
  • Yurok (aka Chillula, Mita, Pekwan)
  • Zuni (aka Zuñi, Shiwi'ma,)