University of California, Riverside

UCR Newsroom

Luiseno Language Revival Planned

Native Languages to be Revitalized Through UCR

(June 12, 2002)

Partnering with scholars at the University of California, Riverside, cultural leaders of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians are launching an ambitious effort to teach young tribal members their ancestral language and to create a model for revitalizing other endangered languages.

Beginning as soon as this summer, Luiseño youth and adults at Pechanga will have the opportunity to learn about their culture in Luiseño, one of approximately 100 tribal languages native to California. Fully half of those languages are now nearly extinct.

"With the death of ancestral languages, the process of comprehending one's own history and describing the landscape is changed," says Gary DuBois, director of Pechanga Cultural Resources. "The intimate descriptions of nature and human relations, which were once locked in the native language, no longer exist and must be translated through the dominant language. Therefore, it becomes impossible to transmit fundamental cultural ways of knowing across the generations."

"Guided by our elders, Pechanga decided to try to do something about this situation,” said DuBois. “Learning Luiseño is an important part of being Luiseño. We challenged UCR to create a comprehensive model of revitalization, and they rose to the challenge."

Sheila Dwight, director of International Education Programs at UCR Extension, helped assembled a team of language teaching experts to work on the project.

"This proved to be easy in some ways,” said Dwight. “UCR Extension's International Education Programs is already internationally recognized for teaching language and culture, as well as preparing language teachers. We have decades of experience in all aspects of language, from grammar and reading to writing and speaking.”

The lead linguist for the project is Eric Elliott, who is uniquely qualified for the task. A native of Southern California native, Elliott has long been concerned about the plight of indigenous languages. He spent five years documenting the endangered Luiseño language by working closely with Villiana Hyde, native speaker of the Rincon dialect of Luiseño. His doctoral dissertation at UC San Diego was a 1,700 page bilingual English-Luiseño/Luiseño-English dictionary, the result of thirteen years of research on the Luiseño language. For the past eleven years he has documented the Mountain Cahuilla dialect of Cahuilla, and the Serrano language spoken by one remaining native speaker residing at the Morongo Reservation of Riverside County.

"We hope to revitalize the Luiseño language, " said Elliott. “We hope that what blossoms at Pechanga can become a model for what can be done elsewhere."

Because the project has wide possible application, especially throughout Southern California, it has been dubbed the Takic Language Revitalization Project. Some other languages in the Takic family include Juaneño, Gabrielino and Cahuilla.

“We have assembled a very strong team, but we know that challenges will present themselves,” said Joel Martin, Rupert Costo Chair of American Indian Affairs at UCR, who helped put all of the parties together.

He said language revitalization is difficult. Not only are there distractions that pull people away from language learning, but sometimes elders of the tribe experience painful memories of how they were taught to feel ashamed to speak their own language.

"We hope we can surmount these challenges," Martin said. "We would like to make language learning rewarding and enjoyable for all ages, part of a larger healing process, and an important affirmation of Native identity. California Indians have made it clear that they think this is a very important project and we have taken that to heart."



California Indians have long recognized the severity of losing the languages of their elders.

1. Primary Objective: This project has as its immediate object the development of a teaching model that will revitalize the Luiseno language among tribal members of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians. The model includes the following:

a. Record, Document, and Preserve the Luiseno Language

b. Teach the Luiseno Language to the children of Pechanga

2. Secondary Objective:

a. Produce new Luiseno Materials (UCR)

b. Train tribal members to be teachers in Luiseno (UCR)

3. Ultimate Objective: The final goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive Takic Language Revitalization Model that is nationally recognized and can be adopted by other Native tribes interested in preserving their tribal languages. UCR is committed to contributing to the revitalization of Luiseño, Cahuilla, Serrano, Diegueño, and other California languages.

Relevance to UCR

UCR's focus on American Indian Affairs reflects its location and unique positive heritage. Located at the fastest growing and most diverse campus in the UC system, UCR’s Native American Studies program consists of more than 40 courses distributed across many departments. A strong concentration of faculty in History supports one of the country's most highly regarded Ph.D. programs in Native American history as well as a new M.A. program. Efforts are underway to offer an M.A. and Ph.D. in Native American Studies as well, tapping full-time faculty in Anthropology, Dance, English, Ethnic Studies, and Religious Studies. UCR's program enjoys institutional support, including the Rupert Costo Library of American Indian History, the Costo Endowed Chair in American Indian Affairs, the Costo Historical and Linguistic Native American Research Center, and a strong Native American Students Program. Near neighbor to more than 30 federally recognized tribes as well as several unrecognized ones, UCR's program supports interdisciplinary, culturally sensitive, critically sophisticated, and communally based research. Founded in 1954, UCR offers undergraduate and graduate education to more than 14,000 students. It is a member of the 10-campus UC system. UCR is located at Highway 60 and University Ave. in Riverside at the foot of the Box Springs Mountains.

For more information about UC Riverside visit


Russell "Butch" Murphy

Communications Director

Pechanga Indian Reservation

Pechanga Indian Reservation

P.O. Box 1477

Temecula, CA 92593


Phone: (909)676-2768, ext. 202

Gary Dubois

Director, Pechanga Cultural Resources

Pechanga Indian Reservation

P.O. Box 2183

Temecula, CA 92593


Phone: (909)308-9295

Joel Martin

Costo Chair of American Indian Affairs

University of California, Riverside

Riverside, CA 92521


Phone (909)787-2137

Sheila Dwight

Director, International Education Programs

University of California, Riverside

Riverside, CA 92521


Phone: (909)787-4346

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Media Relations
900 University Avenue
1156 Hinderaker Hall
Riverside, CA 92521

Tel: (951) 827-6397 (951) UCR-NEWS
Fax: (951) 827-5008

Related Links