The US Department of Education has allocated over $8 million in grant funding to prioritize Indigenous student languages through three key initiatives. These initiatives aim to increase access to Native American languages in U.S. schools.
They also foster the growth and recognition of Native American teachers. Additionally, they facilitate coordination between Tribal Educational Agencies and state/local partners.
A significant portion of the funding, totaling nearly $3 million, will be directed towards the establishment of the Native American Language Resource Centers program. The program aims to preserve and protect Native languages by advocating for their usage across all classrooms, content areas, and schools.
Recognizing the shortage of Native American educators, a portion of the grant money will be utilized to address this issue. Efforts will focus on promoting job retention among Native teachers by providing opportunities for them to assume leadership roles within their respective schools.
The significance of this initiative is rooted in history. The enactment of the Native American Languages Act in 1990 established that Native Americans have the right to use their own languages.
This policy shift came after decades. The U.S. Government implemented measures aimed at eradicating Indigenous languages.
This was done through forced assimilation and mandatory English language learning and speaking practices. Boarding schools were central to these efforts as they sought to strip Indigenous children of their unique cultures, including their native languages.
These grants represent a significant step forward in supporting Indigenous education and honoring cultural diversity within U.S. schools.