The traditional Shasta language area is from the confluence of Bear Creek and the Rogue River in Oregon, across the Siskiyou Mountains to the upper Klamath River in California and southward along the Shasta and Scott Rivers to their headwaters. In pre-contact times, there were an estimated 2,000 speakers (Kroeber 1925). In the 21st century, there are no first-language speakers (Golla 2011). However, tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation (Shasta Indian Nation).

Map of the Shastan languages
Map of the Shastan languages (Golla 2011: 91)

Shasta is a member of the Shastan language family, the other members of which are Konomihu, New River Shasta, and Okwanuchu. Together the Shastan languages comprise one branch of the hypothesized Hokan language family. This additionally includes Chimariko, Esselen, Karuk, the Palaihnihan languages (Achumawi and Atsugewi), the Pomoan languages (Central Pomo, Eastern Pomo, Kashaya, Northeastern Pomo, Northern Pomo, Southeastern Pomo, and Southern Pomo), Salinan, Washo, Yana, and the Yuman languages (Cocopa, Kiliwa, Kumeyaay, Maricopa, Mojave, Pai, Paipai, and Quechan).

Grammatical information

Thumbnail sketch of Shasta by Shirley Silver [PDF] (Haas.063)

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Selected materials in other archives

Further reading

  • Bright, William and David L. Olmsted. 1959. A Shasta vocabulary. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 20:1-55. [PDF]
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Haas, Mary R. 1963. Shasta and Proto-hokan. Language, 39:40-59. [PDF]
  • Silver, Shirley. 1966. The Shasta language. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. [PDF]
  • Silver, Shirley and Wicks, Clara. 1977. Coyote steals fire (Shasta). In Golla, Victor & Silver, Shirley (eds.), Northern California Texts, 121-131. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Silver, Shirley. 1980. Shasta and Konomihu. In Kathryn Klar, Margaret Langdon, and Shirley Silver (eds.), American Indian and Indoeuropean studies: Papers in honor of Madison S. Beeler, pp. 245-263. The Hague: Mouton. [PDF - may not be publicly available]