Andrew Krug has referred me to an AP story by Richard Benke about the excellent Chiricahua Apache spoken in the film The missing:

Word swept through the Mescalero reservation like an early winter wind that characters in the film “The Missing” spoke a dialect of Apache.
Most adult Apaches in the audiences have said they could understand every word of the Chiricahua dialect — and the children suddenly wished they could, too.

That’s what Mescalero councilman Berle Kanseah and Chiricahua linguist Elbys Hugar intended as technical advisers for the Ron Howard (news) film, a tough tale of 19th century frontier life starring Tommy Lee Jones (news) and Cate Blanchett (news) that has been in theaters for about three weeks.
Television and popular culture are killing minority cultures, starting with language, Kanseah said.
“There’s a generation gap that’s growing,” he said, suggesting Apaches aren’t the only ones facing it. “We need to enforce the home and not lose our way of life, which is our language.”
It was the first film that any of them could remember in which Apache was spoken well enough on screen to be understood. Usually, Westerns were dubbed in Navajo, a related language, said supporting actor Steve Reevis, a Montana Blackfoot who has worked several films but never spoke Apache before “The Missing.”

A rare example of Hollywood doing right by a little-known language. Kudos all around (and thanks, Andrew!).


  1. Sorry, this is off topic, but what does “(news)” mean, beside each film person’s name?

  2. It takes you to a Yahoo search for that person; for instance, Ron Howard (news). I guess I could have either linked them or deleted them, but I was feeling lazy.

  3. jean-pierre says:

    Don’t know if anyone’s mentioned it, but the elder in the animated film Brother Bear was speaking what seemed to me a dialect of the Inuit, In~upiaq, or Yupiq (Eskimo)language group. I recognized it from the Yupiq I learned in the Yukon-Kuskokwim rivers delta in the early 90’s.
    By the way, hope that some of you caught the program on Public Television in which a hunter from Southhampton Island in far Northern Canada teaches his son how to hunt seal. Excellent programming. Hopefully we “gussaks” (phonetic spelling for non-Yupit people) can learn from this example of father-to-son transmission of survival knowledge.

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