Indigenous Tribe in Amazon Rescues Language Through Education

The indigenous Umutina Tribe in Barra do Bugres in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, is teaching their tribal language to children in the village’s school after using Portuguese as the official language for generations. Today, only two tribal members speak the Umutina language, both of which are in their nineties.

The Umutina were nearly wiped out by disease and violence after first being contacted by non-indigenous explorers in the early 20th century. The tribe has adapted to being a part of Brazil by adopting the Portuguese language, updating their village’s infrastructure and adopting Brazilian Ministry of Education standards in their school. Recognizing that their language is severely endangered, the Umutina have begun to offer courses in Umutina language and culture. One Umutina language instructor told Brazil’s Globo, “We know that the number one language in the village is Portuguese. And the tendency is not to go back to speak the language of our parents and grandparents fluently. But we believe that it is possible to preserve our language, even if only partially.” By maintaining their heritage language, the Umutina aim to transmit history and cultural values to the younger generations.

To read more about the Umutina tribe’s efforts in Portuguese, click here.

To see a slide show of images of the Umutina village and school, click here.