Former KU professor saving lost language of the Kaw

Monday, August 1st 2005, 12:37 pm
By: News On 6

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A retired University of Kansas professor is finishing work on a dictionary of an Oklahoma Indian tribe.

Former linguistics professor Robert Rankin is using a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to finish documenting the Kansa -- or Kaw -- Indian language.

His efforts started when he met Maude McCauley Rowe at a watermelon festival in Shindler, Oklahoma, in 1974. Since then he made 60 hours of tape recordings to translate words and phrases repeated by Rowe and the two other tribe members who still spoke the language.

All three have since died but Rankin now has the recordings on 55 compact discs.

So far Rankin's Kaw dictionary and grammar manual has about 4,500 entries, with another thousand to 1,500 to add.

He says he doesn't believe the language will be brought back from the dead, but does think it will be used in prayers, invocations, meetings and powwows.