Education | National

North Coast Journal: Karuk family preserving the language

"Elaina Supahan Albers remembers well what her husband, Phil Albers Jr., said that day eight years ago when she told him she was pregnant with their first child. She was 20 and he was 23. They both worked hotel jobs and attended Southern Oregon University, although Phil was about to graduate. They were at home in their little rental house on Park Street in Ashland, their first home together.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to be parents!’” she says, laughing. “It was, ‘I have nine months to become fluent!’

The Albers are both Karuk, but at the time they weren’t fluent in their ancestral language. Elaina — everyone calls her Elly — was proficient. Phil was quickly improving, with help from Elly and her family. But neither had the ease of a native speaker, someone whose first baby babbles had that growling static sound of Karuk: cuuuuhhhr, cuuuhhhhr. They wanted that for their baby.

It was language that brought Elly and Phil together. A mutual mentor at Southern Oregon University introduced them — the girl who knew Karuk, and the boy who desperately wanted to learn it."

Get the Story:
Cover Story: In Karuk (The North Coast Journal 10/27)

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