William Mendoza, Oglala-Sicangu Lakota, executive director of the White House Initiative on Indian and Alaska Native Education, said there are only 375,000 American Indian language speakers remaining in the U.S. Lillian Sparks Robinson Rosebud Sioux Tribe, commissioner for the Administration for Native Americans, said the agency expected in 2014 to fund 20 percent of Esther Martinez Initiative grant applications and 16 percent of Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance Program applications.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

William Mendoza, Oglala-Sicangu Lakota, executive director of the White House Initiative on Indian and Alaska Native Education, said there are only 375,000 American Indian language speakers remaining in the U.S. Lillian Sparks Robinson Rosebud Sioux Tribe, commissioner for the Administration for Native Americans, said the agency expected in 2014 to fund 20 percent of Esther Martinez Initiative grant applications and 16 percent of Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance Program applications.

Speaking of Languages: Educators Back Native American Language Bills

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs found strong support for proposed legislation to increase federal support for Native American language programs during a legislative hearing that took up the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S. 2299) and the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act (S. 1948).

The seven witnesses easily found consensus about the need to fund Native language programs for elementary and secondary school American Indian/Alaska Native children in order to preserve the dozens of indigenous languages under threat. “All but 15 or 20 of our Native languages are spoken only by adults who are not teaching their younger generations the language. When language becomes extinct, it takes with it the history, philosophy, culture and scientific knowledge of its speakers,” Clarena M. Brockie, member of the Montana State House of Representatives and dean of students at Aaniiih Nakoda College, told the committee.

Clarena M. Brockie, member of the Montana State House of Representatives and dean of students at Aaniiih Nakoda College, testified about the academic achievements of the college’s White Clay Immersion School graduates. (Senate Committee on Indian Affairs)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Clarena M. Brockie, member of the Montana State House of Representatives and dean of students at Aaniiih Nakoda College, testified about the academic achievements of the college’s White Clay Immersion School graduates.

That Native language learning provides huge benefits to students was another area where there was no argument. “Place-based and cultural-based education keeps students engaged and increases student achievement,” said Sonta Hamilton Roach, an elementary teacher at the Innoko River School in Alaska and a board member of Doyon Limited. “In Rural Alaska our communities are plagued with high suicide rates, and high drop out rates, which correlate directly with a loss in culture and language.”

Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Montana, took William Mendoza, Oglala-Sicangu Lakota, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, to task when he informed the committee that the White House did not yet have a position on the legislation. Tester was clear that the committee wanted a decision by the time Congress returned from its July 4 recess.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged the White House Initiative to aggressively demonstrate the nexus between Native language acquisition and the academic achievement and well-being of Native children, noting that it was one of the most important ways to improve educational outcomes of Native students.

Mendoza told the committee that language preservation was at the forefront of the initiative’s work. It is “about life and death…” he said. “Our elders are dying and our children are killing themselves and we have to have this as a foundation.”

The potentially devastating impact of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on Native language programs was of paramount importance to Namaka Rawlins, director of Strategic Partnerships and Collaboration at ‘Aha Punana Leo, a 30-year-old language immersion organization in Hawaii. She testified in favor of several proposed amendments to the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act that would reconcile No Child Left Behind with the Native American Languages Act of 1990.

Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Chairman Ed Delgado described the crisis in language preservation. “The Oneida language has not been the first language spoken by our people for over a century," he told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. (Senate Committee on Indian Affairs)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Chairman Ed Delgado described the crisis in language preservation. “The Oneida language has not been the first language spoken by our people for over a century,” he told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

She said NCLB’s “one size fits all” approach to assessment had “moved Hawai’i back toward the time when the federal government outlawed our indigenous language in territorial schools in our language and culture’s own homeland.” NCLB, she said, presented “huge, discriminatory challenges to all Native American language schools throughout the country and to those communities that wish to establish such schools.”

Tester brought up the issue of teacher certification for Native language programs, asking if witnesses thought legislation to exempt teachers of Native languages from certification requirements would be helpful. Brockie pointed out that a law doing just that already exists in Montana (as it does in many other Western states). Thomas Shortbull, president of Oglala Lakota College, said they should probably not be totally exempt, but might be required to have a college degree and be certifiable in a special category. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Chairman Ed Delgado stressed the need for parameters for teachers in regard to techniques and temperament, suggesting some kind of certification but not necessarily a four-year degree.

Thomas Shortbull, president of Oglala Lakota College, testified, “The sad fact is that on my reservation language instruction in the K-12 schools has not produced any language speakers over the last 40 years.” (Senate Committee on Indian Affairs)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Thomas Shortbull, president of Oglala Lakota College, testified, “The sad fact is that on my reservation language instruction in the K-12 schools has not produced any language speakers over the last 40 years.”

Rawlins explained that ‘Aha Punana Leo had started with non-certified elders who were fluent speakers. They taught in preschool classrooms with youthful language learners who eventually became certified teachers, thus building the cadre of fluent speakers with teaching credentials who over the course of three decades has increased the number of speakers fluent in Hawaiian from fewer than 50 child speakers in the mid-1980s to several thousand today.

Comments

Comments are closed.

Credit Card Identification Number

This number is recorded as an additional security precaution.

americanexpress

American Express

4 digit, non-embossed number printed above your account number on the front of your card.
visa

Visa

3-digit, non-embossed number printed on the signature panel on the of the card immediately following the card account number.
mastercard

MasterCard

3-digit, non-embossed number printed on the signature panel on the back of the card.

Enter Your Log In Credentials

Send this to friend

Hi,
I thought you might find this interesting:
Speaking of Languages: Educators Back Native American Language Bills

URL: https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/education/native-education/speaking-of-languages-educators-back-native-american-language-bills/