April 13, 2021 | Politico
The news of Maxine Wildcat Barnett’s Covid hospitalization in November shook the Yuchi community of Sapulpa, a small Oklahoma city named after its first settler, a Creek Native American. At 95, Barnett is the last tribal elder who speaks the Yuchi language fluently — which means she’s one of the few remaining links to a culture her tribe is fighting to preserve.
Barnett eventually recovered, but her illness exacerbated fears the language would become extinct — something the Yuchi Language Project is pushing to prevent from happening.
Last month, lawmakers on the Hill responded by incorporating $20 million for Native American languages into the latest coronavirus relief package, something that hadn’t been addressed in previous iterations of aid. The funding is part of more than $31 billion headed for Indian Country, which Senate Indian Affairs Chair Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) billed as “the biggest one-time investment in U.S. history” for Native communities.