Photograph by Chris Rainier
The Enduring Voices team visited Kalmykia in May 2012. Their goals included: observing and reporting on language revitalization, meeting and interviewing Kalmyk culture experts, recording Kalmyk stories and songs, and recruiting participants for the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Prior to this expedition, National Geographic Fellow David Harrison met with the Kalmyk diaspora community in Howell, New Jersey, and observed their success in maintaining their Buddhist religious practice, language, and culture. Despite considerable odds, the Kalmyk language, culture, and religion—all intimately connected with the Kalmyk's self-identity—have endured.
Scenes of skilled craftsmen, meditative priests, and dedicated performers reveal the faces behind the stories the team brought back. In these images, the Kalmyk language, culture, and people spring to life.
The Enduring Voices team visited the Republic of Kalmykia, in European Russia, where they found evidence of a strong cultural revitalization among the younger generation, expressed in song, dance, poetry, and renewed use of the Kalmyk language.
The Enduring Voices team reports back on the Xyzyl (pronounced “hizzle”) language from the Republic of Xakasia northwest of Mongolia. They will be working with the Xyzyl people to create a talking dictionary and grammar to help them preserve their ancient tongue.
A language previously unknown to linguists, and spoken by about 800 people, has been documented in the mountains of northeast India.
The Enduring Voices Project travels to some of the most remote parts of the world to study Earth's many endangered languages.
Meet the Team
Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson is a linguist who is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance of endangered languages.
K. David Harrison is a linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages. He co-leads the Enduring Voices project at National Geographic and is an associate professor at Swarthmore College.
Chris Rainier is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. His life's mission is to put on film both the remaining natural wilderness and indigenous cultures around the globe and to use images to create social change.
The Enduring Voices Project represents a partnership between National Geographic Mission Programs and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.
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View the Enduring Voices Project ethics statement.
The Last Speakers
The poignant chronicle of K. David Harrison’s expeditions around the world to meet with last speakers of vanishing languages.