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Shasta

Linguistics

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The Shastan people spoke languages belonging to the Hokan language family (Kroeber 279). Believed to be the oldest language group in California, the Hokan stock was first identified and named by Roland Dixon and Alfred Kroeber in 1913. The word Hokan is the word for 'two' and is thought to come from the Atsugewi hoqi. The Hokan languages and language families in California are: Karuk, Shastan, Chimariko, Palaihnihan, Yana, Pomoan, Esselen, Salian, Chumashan, and Yuman. While these languages are related, they are not mutually intelligible; however, all four of the Shasta groups do speak the same language, but with variations in dialect (Shipley 85).

Although there is no definitive evidence for the earliest Shasta occupation in Siskiyou County, the linguistic evidence suggests that the Shastans have lived in this area of California for a long period of time.

Between 6000 and 4000 B.C., speakers of Hokan languages probably held nearly all of cismontane California. Pre-Karok, Shastan, and Palaihnihan [Achomawi and Atsugewi] groups may have occupied far northern California and southern Oregon during this period....Shastan and Palaihnihan are clearly older in northern California than the neighboring Wintu, Klamath-Modoc, or Paiute. (Moratto 546)

According to Leanne Hinton, author of "Flutes of Fire", there were only twelve Shastan speakers recorded on the 1990 census, and none of them were living in California. In 1994, Hinton suggested that at the most there was only one Shastan speaker still living in California (32).

 

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