Keeper of the language still working at age 97
At age 97, Maria Hinton is a revered Tribal Elder known nationally for helping preserve Oneida stories, language and culture. She is one of a dwindling handful — as few as five, perhaps — of native speakers in Wisconsin. She grew up on old Seymour Road in a household that spoke only Oneida, and she learned English at the government school at age 10.
Her keen memory was critical to the Oneida preserve-the-language movement rekindled in the 1970s. She and her brother, the late Amos Christjohn, collaborated to create the first written dictionary for the oral language. She helped found the Turtle Elementary School and worked there well into her 90s as a culture and language instructor. Today, Mrs. Hinton and UW-Green Bay Prof. Cliff Abbott meet weekly on a new project, donning headsets to digitally record her pronunciations for a spoken-word version of the Oneida dictionary.