Tribal elder Grove-D’Wolf creates Ute language app

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Lynda Grove-D'Wolf displays her newly developed app, soon to available for download in the Apple App Store. The app teaches Ute words in 18 topics.
A closer look at the app's main menu screen.
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
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Owners of an Apple iPad or iPhone will soon be able to practice their Ute language skills.

Southern Ute elder Lynda Grove-D’Wolf is finalizing a deal with Apple that would publish her Ute language program, Kavia Nuccie Nú-u-apá ga-pi – meaning “the Mountain Utes language” – in the company’s App Store. Grove-D’Wolf said pricing has not yet been determined.

“It’s been an interesting process,” she said of developing the app, which features recordings of Ute words in 18 topics. Grove-D’Wolf supplied the translations, and Robin Johnson of Subalpine Technologies handled the coding of the app.

Last year, Grove-D’Wolf introduced a similar product on CD. But the reach of the App Store means the Ute language will be available at the tap of a button to millions of Apple device users worldwide.

“This is the first Ute app, first of its kind,” she said. “The point here is that the language is dying. If we don’t do something, it’s going to die. It’s going to be a language of the past. This is my contribution to whoever wants to learn it. Here it is.”

She said the project grew out of a suggestion from her son, who she admits is more tech savvy.

“I’m not a computer person,” she said.

By Grove-D’Wolf’s count, the Southern Ute speakers who are fluent in their language number fewer than 40 today.

“As a teacher, I found out that out of the 1,498 tribal members in 2000 when I started my education, there was like 130-some fluent speakers,” she said. “We’ve lost a lot of our elders that could speak the language fluently.”

Grove-D’Wolf said she hopes the app will be available within a week. Not one to rest on her laurels, she said she already has several more projects lined up that focus on things like genealogy, creation stories and nursery rhymes.

“I’ve always been really passionate about my language,” she said. “Somebody needs to do it. Because if you don’t, it’s going to be too late.”

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