When I was growing up with my brothers and sisters, there were two main influences in my life: my mother and my grandmother. They spoke Yowlumni to each other and to visiting relatives. Through our language they told stories and showed laughter and happiness when they were together. To me, the sound of my language was like a beautiful song filling the air. Even though I couldn't understand my elders, just hearing the words made me feel safe, secure, and happy. I became very close to my grandmother, and wanted to be by her side all the time.
Even at my young age, I felt the sacredness of my grandmother's knowledge, beliefs, and ways. I knew that when my elders spoke, the strength of our culture was being shared. The Yowlumni language brought them close together. It was a good feeling to have this in my life.
My grandmother died when I was fourteen years old. My mom no longer had anyone to speak Yowlumni with. Only if relatives called on the telephone or came to visit did I hear my language. Like many in my family, we suffered great pain and loss. I began to experiment with alcohol and drugs, knowing in my heart this was self-destructive with no rewards of a truly good life.
Then, the sweat house ceremonies came back to my people. At age seventeen I was led by a strong spirit to attend. I was attracted to these ceremonies and continued to attend them whenever I could. While in one of these ceremonies I realized all things in our natural world still understood the Yowlumni language. I realized that my goal in life was to be able to pray in my own sacred language. Through the help of the spirits, my mother, and my dreams, songs were taught to me; words were learned. I felt balance coming into my life....
I believe that the revival of our language would restore balance to our world. When we practice our native language, there is less occurrence of natural disasters, more peace in our communities, and a renewal of respect among all creation.
Therefore, many of us would like to see tribes and tribal governments actively preserve their native languages. I am now spending many hours with my mother, learning from her my own Yowlumni language. My life has a clearer direction. I am grateful that in my mother's loving way, I can learn from her. She is my teacher.
In the beginning, the sounds were hard to remember and vocalize. It took a lot of courage and confidence that I would someday be able to pray to my sacred mountains and that they would be able to understand me. I'm sure that in the very beginning I probably entertained the spirits many times. Our lives are shared with many people through the Yowlumni language now.
Today I am not only able to pray in Yowlumni, but I am becoming one of only twenty-five fluent speakers. Every time we use our language I feel that all of creation understands us and is rejuvenated. This gives me much happiness and the strength to continue. The Yowlumni language is a true spiritual gift originating from the beginning of time, not to be forgotten.