The last native speaker of Myaamia died in the 1960s. The language had been spoken by the Myaamia people, Native Americans who originally lived in what is now Indiana. Also known as the Miami, they were forcibly relocated twice in the 19th century, and ended up scattered throughout the Midwest and beyond — a situation that put pressure on the language even a century ago.
By the 1980s, linguists and tribe members alike thought the language was gone. But then Daryl Baldwin came along. He’d always known he had Myaamia heritage, but it wasn’t until his late 20s that he got interested in the language.
Baldwin embarked on the challenge together with his wife, Karen. There was no dictionary or “Teach Yourself Myaamia” book, and there weren’t even sound recordings of the language. But somehow, they made a start.
They began with words — household items, animals, the names of birds — taped to their walls and kitchen counters, or carried on pieces of paper in their pockets to be consulted throughout the day.
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