SOURCE: Barona Cultural Center & Museum

Barona Cultural Center & Museum

November 03, 2009 13:51 ET

More Than Words: Saving Our Endangered Language

Barona Cultural Center & Museum's Inter-Tribal Dictionary Exhibition Opens for November Native American Month

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwire - November 3, 2009) - Seven years in the making, the monumental 696-page Barona Inter-Tribal Dictionary is now on display at the Barona Cultural Center & Museum. The new exhibition, 'Iipay Aa Tiipay Aa Uumall' More Than Words: Saving Our Endangered Language, is part of the museum's calendar of activities in support of Native American Heritage Month in November.

The new dictionary, comprising thousands of more familiar as well as long-lost words and phrases, is aimed at assisting Yuman language speakers of the San Diego County Tribes in revitalizing their traditional native tongue.

A revised and enhanced version of the original 48-page Barona dictionary project completed some 20 years ago, the expansive and updated edition contains a number of innovative features such as history of the project, biographies of the main contributors and a map of the language area.

The heart of the voluminous book is 467 pages of word entries with detailed definitions, sentence examples and various dialects and forms. And because the language is so complex and unfamiliar, there's also a pronunciation key and in-depth grammar guide.

This definitive dictionary, however, is more than just mere words. "It is the culture of the Barona people," says Barona Museum Director Cheryl Hinton.

Many indigenous American languages -- including 'Iipay Aa spoken by the Barona Band of Mission Indians and those of many other California Tribes -- face extinction. The dictionary, currently the only written documentation, stands as a powerful tool in preserving the language and the entire culture, explains Hinton.

"The Barona people suffered severe language loss through the mission system, boarding schools, urbanization and assimilation projects," she says. "This enormous dictionary undertaking is an effort to preserve an original native language for a people who came very close to losing it."

The dictionary is the first publication of the newly founded Barona Museum Press, which is working on publishing other historical and contemporary materials related to Barona and the 17 other Native American Tribes in San Diego County.

The dictionary exhibition also features other Barona Museum programs dedicated to cultural preservation and language revitalization, including the history of the 'Iipay Tiipay branch of the Yuman languages.

"It is fascinating to examine word origins and developments within the history of the Barona people," notes Hinton. "Words tell stories and help keep both the language and traditions alive."

Dedicated to preserving the Native American history of San Diego County, the Barona Cultural Center & Museum houses more than 3,000 artifacts, photographic displays and archives. The museum showcases many Indian traditions, such as birdsongs, language, gatherings, gaming and artwork and highlights the Barona Band of Mission Indians.

In addition, the Barona Museum offers classes and tours for public and private schools, civic groups, clubs and other organizations.

The Barona Cultural Center & Museum, located at 1095 Barona Road in Lakeside, just one mile north of the Barona Resort & Casino, is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays to focus on creating new exhibitions and providing community outreach.

Admission is free and there is no charge for tours. For more information, visit or call 619-443-7003, ext. 2.

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