Android App Reconnects Community To Yakama Indigenous Language

Keegan Livermore types out “Good afternoon” on the Ichishkíin-English keyboard he created. The app is available on the Google Play store for Android users only at this time. He hopes to have an iOS version later this fall. CREDIT: ESMY JIMENEZ/NWPB
Keegan Livermore types out “Good afternoon” on the Ichishkíin-English keyboard he created. The app is available on the Google Play store for Android users only at this time. He hopes to have an iOS version later this fall. CREDIT: ESMY JIMENEZ/NWPB

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Keegan Livermore types out “Good afternoon” on the app he created. It’s an Ichishkíin [EE-cheesh-KEEN] and English keyboard.

One of the 10 dialects of the Yakama Nation’s Sahaptin language is called Ichishkíin.

With fewer than 50 fluent speakers, it’s considered endangered according to the Heritage University Language Center. But a new Android mobile app connects users to it.

The dialect doesn’t really use hi or hello. Rather greetings functions on a time base with phrases like “Good morning” or “Good night.”

Livermore is a masters student at Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash. Originally from Portland, his family history brought him back to study linguistics in the Yakima Valley.

During a language program this summer, Livermore suddenly had an idea.

“We have a computer keyboard that someone has already made,” he said. “Why not put it in the tiny computers we all carry in our pockets daily?”

So he set off to create an app that would allow users to type in English and Ichishkíin. He wants to make the language accessible. He says he imagines people using it intexting, Facebook posts and for email. Livermore says he wants “to show that the language is still relevant in our modern, daily context.”

The Ichishkiin Yakama language app is now available for Android, with hopes for an iOS version soon.

The Ichishkiin Yakama language app is now available for Android, with hopes for an iOS version soon.

He hopes to expand his work and connect to the Warm Springs and Umatilla tribes in Oregon, to create keyboards unique to their own dialects.

The Android app is live now in the Google Play store. A version for iPhone will be out later this fall.

Copyright 2018 Northwest Public Broadcasting

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