Rochester, N.Y. – An anthropology professor is teaming up with a computer science student at the Rochester Institute of Technology to save the native language of the Seneca Indian Nation.
With fewer than 50 native speakers left, the project is described as a “race against time.”
Professor Jason Younker and grad student Robbie Jimerson are working on an app to document and preserve the language for future generations.
“While we understand that it is impossible to replace or replicate the language context that our elder Seneca language speakers provide, we know that this is a drastic time for the language and it must be preserved the best way we know how—using technology,” Younker said.
Jimerson is a resident of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation near Buffalo, and is handling the technical end of creating the app.
“My grandfather has always said that a joke is funnier in Seneca than it is in English,” Jimerson said.
The project is expected to take years to complete.
A $200,000 federal grant is helping to fund the efforts through 2014.