October 01, 2007

Last Elem Pomo speaker

Only living Elem Pomo speaker teaches so she won't be the lastKelsey, 59, is the last person on Earth who is fluent in Elem Pomo, an 8,000-year-old dialect spoken by a people who once flourished along the shores of Clear Lake (Lake County). Handed down orally and never written, the language has nearly vanished--and Kelsey, a quiet, almost demure woman with steely gaze, is doing everything she can to make sure the ancient words do not die with her.

Every time an Elem Pomo phrase passes her lips and someone else hears it, she says, she is helping keep it alive. It's even better if one of the young people in her tribe speaks that phrase back to her--and over the past three years, she has been holding workshops to make sure they are able to do that.

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