[lg policy] Senate Committee Hears From Cherokee Immersion School Grad

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Sep 3 12:20:18 EDT 2018

Senate Committee Hears From Cherokee Immersion School Grad on Importance of
Native Languages
By Matt Trotter <http://www.publicradiotulsa.org/people/matt-trotter> *•* Aug
24, 2018
Cherokee Nation immersion school graduate Lauren Hummingbird testifies
before the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Credit U.S. Senate

One of the Cherokee Nation’s first immersion school graduates told U.S.
Senators this week funding to help preserve Native languages must be a

Lauren Hummingbird testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Hummingbird said the Cherokee immersion program is helping bridge the gap
between elders and younger generations, preserving the tribe’s culture.

"I would do anything for my culture and my people, and I know that learning
my language is one of the most important things to them," Hummingbird said.

Health and Human Services Administration for Native Americans Commissioner
Jeannie Hovland said those connections are between elders and younger
members of a tribe are important.

"It’s building communities, and healthy, strong communities help with
academics, help with the substance abuse and other issues that we face in
our communities. And so, there’s a lot of positives that come out of it,"
Hovland said.

Hummingbird said learning Cherokee also improved her overall academic
achievement. Dr. Christine Sims with the American Indian Language Policy
Research and Teacher Training Center said a closer look at those
extralinguistic benefits is in order.

"The cognitive benefits that come with young children — as young as 2, 3 —
learning these languages and becoming fluent, we don’t know enough about
the value of what they’re learning in a different communicative system,"
Sims said.

According to figures from the Cherokee Nation, less than 0.5 percent of its
citizens are fluent in Cherokee, and the tribe is ahead of many others at
language preservation. The average age of the tribe's 1,200 fluent speakers
is 65.

Congress requires at least $12 million in federal funding be spent annually
on Native language programs. Speakers told the Senate Indian Affairs
Committee many native languages may die out without increased funding.

Hummingbird said she is willing to help teach Cherokee, whether informally
or by earning her teaching certificate and working in the immersion school
or a master-apprentice program for adults.

 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

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