Kunza is the language of the Atacameño or Likan Antay people. Although there are more than 6,000 Atacameñós living in Chile, it has long been believed that their language was extinct. Although much of the language had been recorded and exists on paper, native speakers of Kunza no longer existed. That said, recent efforts by the Atacameño people, coupled with assistance from Conadi (Chile’s Indigenous development corporation), are trying to change that by teaching individuals to once again can speak in their native tongue.To this end, the Chilean government — through Conadi — located the few individuals who knew enough spoken Kunza to be able to teach it to others. One such individual is Tomás Vilca, who heard his grandmother speak the language when he was young and decided to learn all he could about it at a young age. Now, Vilca, and a few others like him, are helping teach Kunza to new generations of people through workshops and classes that began in 2012. The first round of workshops saw 53 individuals attend the language classes ranging from three years old to adults. The long-term goal of the program is to continue restoring the Kunza language and, in particular, to teach Atacameño youth their ancestral language.
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