Chinuk Wawa evolved as a pidgin language, a pared-down, intertribal tongue that facilitated trade among Northwest bands speaking dozens of languages and hundreds of dialects.
Eight different main tribal languages and more than two dozen dialects were once spoken here," said Henry Zenk, a Portland anthropologist who did his doctoral dissertation on Chinuk Wawa after interviewing Grand Ronde elders in the early 1980s.
Chinuk Wawa is the last indigenous language left here," agreed Zenk, now working with Johnson on a Chinuk Wawa dictionary.
The only language these kids hear, five hours a day, is Chinuk Wawa.
Language institute participants from the Yakama, Wasco, Warm Springs, Paiute and Klamath tribes learned language-teaching techniques from Tony Johnson, director of the Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa
immersion program, and Yakama elder Virginia Beavert, who teaches Sahaptin.