The Times podcast: An Indigenous language, back from the brink

A man stands in front of trees
Ernest Siva is one of the last remaining oral historians of the Indigenous Serrano language.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Native American culture and history have long been ignored or romanticized as vestiges of a lost people — or both.


The Serrano people of Southern California have seen their Indigenous language nearly vanish. But tribe member Ernest Siva has been working to save it. Among his efforts: The octogenarian contributes to Cal State San Bernardino’s language program.

Then, 25-year-old Mark Araujo-Levinson found the classes through a Google search — and started making YouTube videos of himself learning the language.

Today, we hear their voices. And L.A. Times Metro reporter Nathan Solis takes us through their story and how their efforts have gained momentum.

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guest: L.A. Times Metro reporter Nathan Solis

More reading:

The Indigenous Serrano language was all but gone. This man is resurrecting it

San Bernardino County recognizes Serrano language and museums sitting on tribal land

Tongva, Los Angeles’ first language, opens the door to a forgotten time and place

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producers Denise Guerra, Shannon Lin and Kasia Broussalian and producers Melissa Kaplan, Ashlea Brown and Angel Carreras. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Kinsee Morlan. Our executive producers are Jazmín Aguilera and Shani O. Hilton. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.