Pages from the Klallam Dictionary compiled by Timothy Montler.

Klallam Dictionary Helps Effort to Save Endangered Native Language


Released just before Thanksgiving, the Klallam Dictionary (University of Washington Press, 2012) has more than 9,000 entries, a pronunciation guide and a history of how the dictionary was produced.

That history begins in 1978 with Timothy Montler, a University of North Texas linguist who has been documenting spoken Klallam since then.

“When he first came, there were around 100 [Lower Elwha] people who spoke Klallam as their first language,” Port Angeles High School Klallam language teacher Jamie Valadez told Peninsula Daily News. “Now there are two.”

Klallam is offered at Port Angeles High School in Port Angeles, Washington as one of four languages students can take to meet graduation requirements.

Montler compiled the book with the help of those two fluent speakers—Bea Charles and Adeline Smith. According to the dictionary’s list of contributors, Smith was the largest contributor, with 12,000 individual words or sentences attributed to her.

Peninsula Daily News reported that Montler also worked with elders from the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S'Klallam, Port Gamble Klallam and the Scia’new First Nation of Vancouver Island to create an alphabet.

Valadez told the newspaper that some of her former students are now using the dictionary to teach their children, raising a new generation of Klallam speakers.

“The tribe was very close to losing our language,” Brenda Francis-Thomas, spokeswoman for the Lower Elwha Klallam told the Peninsula Daily News. “There was a time when we had no written language at all.”

To improve the dictionary’s reach, the tribe has purchased 1,000 copies and distributed them to its members at a Christmas gathering held Thursday, December 13.

A book signing will be held in January in Port Angeles for Montler, but a date has not been finalized.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Okay !! I live less than a mile from The Lower Elwha and I get a 'word of the day" posted on my facebook daily. Not only the word and it's meaning but it is pronounced in an audio feed. A wonderful way to educate.I personal feel that the people who have worked (and continue to do so) to save this language deserve much more recognition than they are receiving locally. Many thanks to the elders, Mrs. Charles and Mrs.Smith who saved their language from dying. Your efforts will be felt for the rest of time in the ones yet to be born, who will want to know from where they first began. Jamie you are a wonderful loving person who has helped so many youth who struggle through the school system, including my son many years ago...thank you.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I'll have to contact this tribe. My nation needs to do the same. It will make my group of friends closer to our goal. An interactive learning tool for beginners to advanced speaking.