Monday, January 15, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Red Thunder Cloud, Spoke Catawba


WORCESTER, Mass. - Red Thunder Cloud, a singer and storyteller who was the last known speaker of the Catawba Native-American language, died after suffering a stroke. He was 76.

Mr. Thunder Cloud, who lived in Northbridge, died last Monday (Jan. 8) in St. Vincent's Hospital, friends said.

The Catawba language, related to the Sioux family of languages, has no written form, said Carl Teeter, emeritus professor of linguistics at Harvard University. He said there were once about 500 languages in North America, but only about 100 still are spoken.

In the 1940s, Mr. Thunder Cloud made a recording of all he knew of the language for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although Mr. Thunder Cloud was believed to the last speaker of the Catawba language, estimates of the number of living Catawbas range from several hundred to more than 1,000. The tribe originally lived in South Carolina and parts of North Carolina and Virginia; its headquarters is in Rock Hill, S.C.

Mr. Thunder Cloud was not an official member of the tribe, though he visited its reservation several times in the 1930s and 1940s, said Foxx Ayers, a friend of Mr. Thunder Cloud and a member of the tribe's executive committee.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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