Songs of the Colorado

Ashley Perez

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An audience of 50 students filled the Saville Theatre on April 18 for a screening of “Songs of the Colorado.”

Filmmaker Daniel Golding and Jon Meza Cuero tell the story of the traditional songs of the Yuman-speaking people and how those songs connect them, through story, to the language and history of the culture.

“Songs of the Colorado” features interviews and performances from Preston Arrow-Weed, Quechan Elder Vernon Smith, and Dale Phillips, vice chairman of the Cocopah and others.

At least 10 indigenous peoples along the Colorado River speak the Yuman language, including the Cucapa, Havasupai, Quechan and Yapavai. It is believed to be one of the oldest languages on the continent.

The elders who do speak the language are slowly passing away. The language is at risk of being lost unless younger generations are taught the language, songs and stories.

In the winter of 2009, traditional singers from the Yuman speaking tribes that are located along the Colorado River, decided to meet in an attempt to protect the songs. This was important to better understand the similarities of the people.

Hoping to spark an interest in reviving the language, Quechan filmmaker Daniel Golding decided to document Yuman songs, with grant funding obtained by Quechan Elder and Lead Singer Preston Arrow-Weed.

The event was sponsored by the San Diego City College Foundation and World Cultures Program.

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