Native American Two Spirit Fights to Keep Tribe’s Language Alive

The ancestral home of DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren’s tribe is along the banks of the Catawba River, near the modern border of North Carolina and South Carolina. Thousands of years before first contact with Europeans, they called themselves Ye Iswąˀ, or “people of the river.”

When George-Warren pulled up to his sister’s house in Rock Hill, South Carolina, after spending the past few years in D.C., much had changed. His tribe was known as Catawba, and their language, from which words like Ye Iswąˀ had come, had fallen into disuse. The last fluent speaker died in 1964.

“In 1989, our tribe discussed our priorities, and one of them was revitalizing our language,” he said in a phone interview with NBC Out. “That was two years before I was born.”

George-Warren was born in Atlanta but grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a short distance away from the Catawba Reservation. He was selected this year as a recipient of the Dreamstarter grant program for Native youth, headed up by the nonprofit Running Strong foundation. After being selected, he packed his things in Washington and moved back home to begin the Catawba Language Project.

Read more: NBC News

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