Fwd: [lg policy] Montana Offers A Boost To Native Language Immersion Programs

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon May 4 15:00:33 UTC 2015


 Forwarded From: Fierman, William <wfierman at indiana.edu>
Date: Sat, May 2, 2015 at 6:55 PM
 [lg policy] Montana Offers A Boost To Native Language Immersion Programs



http://www.npr.org/2015/05/02/403576800/montana-offers-a-boost-to-native-language-immersion-programs



Montana Offers A Boost To Native Language Immersion Programs

May 02, 2015 5:48 PM ET



from

MTPR

Amy Martin

Listen to the Story



All Things Considered

4:30



At Montana's Nkwusm Salish Language School, teacher Echo Brown works with a
student learning Salish words. Luk means "wood" or "stick." Picct means
"leaf" and solsi translates to "fire."



At Montana's Nkwusm Salish Language School, teacher Echo Brown works with a
student learning Salish words. Luk means "wood" or "stick." Picct means
"leaf" and solsi translates to "fire."

Courtesy of Nkwusm Salish Language School



Many Native Americans who attended a recent powwow in Missoula, Mont.,
remember what it was like to be punished for speaking a tribal language.
For about a century, starting in the 1870s, the U.S. Bureau of Indian
Affairs ran boarding schools for Native American children, removing them
from their families and homes and separating them from their language and
culture so they would "assimilate."



Carrie Iron Shirt's father was one of those children. "My dad, being in the
boarding school, they were taught not to talk their language," she says.

American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many



Iron Shirt, 37, says her father still has bad memories of the treatment he
received for speaking his native Blackfeet at school. "He didn't want us to
go through that," she says. "So my generation missed out on the language."



Iron Shirt tried to make up for that loss by enrolling her own daughter,
Jade, in a private Blackfeet language immersion school. Now 16, Jade can
speak the language fluently with her grandparents, something for which
she's grateful.



"You learn about your culture more," she says. "And that's what's more
important, you know? 'Cause our culture is dying."



Thanks to a new Montana state bill, expected to be signed into law this
week, more Native American kids will have the same opportunity. The bill
subsidizes Native American language immersion programs in public schools.



As tribes have reclaimed the right to educate their own children in recent
years, native language instruction has been introduced in some Montana
schools. But this is the first time the state will be supporting immersion
programs — which provide instruction in an indigenous language for at least
half the school day.



April Charlo was first exposed to her tribe's Salish language in a seventh
grade class. She's now the executive director of the Nkwusm Salish Language
School serving preschool through eighth-grade students on the Flathead
Reservation in northwestern Montana.



For Charlo, immersion programs aren't just about preserving indigenous
tongues. She believes they are also essential for closing the achievement
gap — an important consideration in Montana, where the high school
graduation rate for American Indian students is almost 20 percentage points
lower than for students of any other race or ethnicity.



"The language and culture and tradition and ceremonies, they're
interlocked, they're interlinked. So when a child is learning their
language, it just goes right to that connection."



- April Charlo, executive director of the Nkwusm Salish Language School



"The language and culture and tradition and ceremonies, they're
interlocked, they're interlinked," Charlo says. "So when a child is
learning their language, it just goes right to that connection."



And that connection, Charlo emphasizes, is what helps kids succeed. "It's
just a confidence ... 'I know my language, I know where I come from.' "



Under the bill, schools that are interested in creating immersion programs
must apply to receive funding that will help compensate native language
instructors.



The only other state that provides funding for native language immersion in
public schools is Hawaii, which has one native language. In Montana, there
are nine.



Jonathan Windy Boy, a Democratic state senator and a Chippewa Cree Indian,
sponsored the immersion bill. "We're investing in a population of this
state that has been neglected for too long," he says. "Investing in those
human resources, I think ... is going to be the best investment that we can
provide for all of Montana to be a better place to live in."



The state legislature capped that investment at $22,500 total per year —
half of what Windy Boy originally proposed and only enough to provide
partial support to a handful of programs.



But some of the bill's opponents, including Republican State Senator Roger
Webb, think the cost of immersion programs should be borne exclusively by
tribes.



"I would rather see individuals, you know, learn Spanish or French or
Chinese," Webb says. As for native language immersion, "If they really
believe that that's an issue, it could be remedied on a home base."



"The policies of the government ... helped almost eradicate the languages.
So ... the state might as well put some money in to help bring it back."



- Roy Big Crane, member of the Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes



But Montana resident Roy Big Crane, a member of the Salish and Pend
d'Oreille tribes, emphasizes that the state has a special responsibility to
help revive native languages.



"It was through the policies of the government, the states, Christianity,
public school systems, that helped almost eradicate the languages," he
says. "So that circle might as well come back and the state might as well
put some money in to help bring it back."

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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