Johnny Hill Jr., a 53-year-old Arizonan, talks to himself in Chemehuevi, a language once spoken by many Southwestern Native Americans. He does that because there's rarely anyone for him to speak Chemehuevi with; Hill tried to teach the language to his stepson without success. There is every chance that the tongue will die with him, Smithsonian magazine writes, in a feature on Native American languages at risk of extinction.
The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages estimates that almost none of the 200 surviving Native American languages remain viable,The institute is trying to reverse the effects colonization had on native languages and rescue what it can, but it may be too late for many. "All the elders are dying off," Hill says. "There may be about 30 true Chemehuevi left."