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The ANA Messenger: Native Language and Culture Edition

Published: November 28, 2012
Native Languages
Language Immersion

The ANA Messenger, Administration for Native Americans, Promoting the Goal of Social and Economic Self-Sufficiency for All Native Americans

Commissioner's InsightLillian Sparks

ACF Forms Native American Languages Work Group

If we are going to turn the tide on the declining rates of Native American language usage and fluency, there must be a sense of urgency and willingness to come together and support one another.  At the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) we are constantly asking ourselves, how can we do more?  What other support and outreach can we offer?  We also wonder, how can ACF, and the federal government overall, better support Native Americans in their efforts to sustain and revitalize Native American languages in these times of fiscal uncertainty?  We are pleased to announce that Acting Assistant  Secretary George Sheldon, and the other Senior Leaders at ACF are lending their support to this effort through the creation of a new ACF-wide work group on Native American Languages (NAL).

ANA has been supporting economic and social self-sufficiency for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native American Pacific Islanders (including American Samoan Natives) as its own agency since passage of the Native American Programs Act (NAPA) in 1974.  NAPA has been amended several times since then, most noticeably in 1992 and 2006 with passage of the Native American Language Act of 1992 and the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006.  Both of these pieces of legislation build upon the Native American Languages Act of 1990, an important policy directive, that in and of itself, did not authorize new programs or grants, but called upon the federal government, as well as state and local governments to preserve, protect, and promote the rights of Native Americans to use their languages.

Here is an excerpt from the Declaration of Policy section of the 1990 Act:

SEC. 104. It is the policy of the United States to— (1) preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages; (2) allow exceptions to teacher certification requirements for Federal programs, and programs funded in whole or in part by the Federal Government, for instruction in Native American languages when such teacher certification requirements hinder the employment of qualified teachers who teach in Native American languages, and to encourage State and territorial governments to make similar exceptions; (3) encourage and support the use of Native American languages as a medium of instruction in order to encourage and support— (A) Native American language survival, (B) educational opportunity, (C) increased student success and performance, (D) increased student awareness and knowledge of their culture and history, and (E) increased student and community pride; (4) encourage State and local education programs to work with Native American parents, educator, Indian tribes, and other Native American governing bodies in the implementation of programs to put this policy into effect; (5) recognize the right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies to use the Native American languages as a medium of instruction in all schools funded by the Secretary of the Interior; (6) fully recognize the inherent right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies, States, territories, and possessions of the United States to take action on, and give official status to, their Native American languages for the purpose of conducting their own business; (7) support the granting of comparable proficiency achieved through course work in a Native American language the same academic credit as comparable proficiency achieved through course work in a foreign language, with recognition of such Native American language proficiency by institutions of higher education as fulfilling foreign language entrance or degree requirements; and (8) encourage all institutions of elementary, secondary and higher education, where appropriate, to include Native American languages in the curriculum in the same manner as foreign languages and to grant proficiency in Native American languages the same full academic credit as proficiency in foreign languages.
Section 104, Native American Languages Act

When you consider the broad scope of the Native American Languages Act of 1990, it is only fitting that ANA should partner with other federal agencies to ensure that the directives of the 1990 NALA continue to be implemented to the fullest extent possible.  To that end ANA is leading an internal Native American Languages work group within the Administration for Children and Families with the goals of supporting ACF programs in their efforts to provide education and services using Native American languages and culture.  ACF offices such as Head Start and Child Care have already begun assessing the types of support their programs need to implement high quality programs that incorporate language and culture, and they are responding with tools and resources to assist them in their efforts.  Our workgroup will continue to promote these available resources, in addition we will identify best practices and successful efforts by ACF grantees to encourage others to implement similar initiatives or practices, identify ways we can work together to encourage ACF programs to share resources, and foster networks that create opportunities for collaboration to share what is working and the creation of new ideas or approaches.

Mia Strickland, Richard Glass, Amy Sagalkin, and Michelle Sauve are the ANA staff supporting this effort.  We are joined by Carrie Peake and Brian Richmond from the Office of Child Care, Bridget Shea Westfall from the Tribal Maternal and Child Home Visiting Program, and Captain Robert Bialas and Sharon Yandian from the Office of Head Start.  The NAL Work Group will meet regularly in order to identify areas for coordination and collaboration that will benefit the communities we serve.  Be on the lookout for more resources and opportunities to connect across the ACF family, and if you have ideas, please feel free to reach out to us!


Lillian A. Sparks



ANA FY 2012 Awards Announced!

Each year ANA receives hundreds of applications for community based projects in Native American communities.  This year ANA was able to award funding to 78 of these projects, with goals ranging from the development of language immersion nests and tribal governance codes, to the delivery of social services and financial literacy courses. ANA is pleased to announce its new awardees for FY 2012.


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Tonya Garnett behind a table in DC



Community in the News

The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP) based in Aquinnah and Mashpee, Massachusetts were recently featured in Yankee Magazine, on Cape Cod radio, and on CBS Evening News. Follow the links below to read, listen and watch! News teams from both Yankee Magazine and CBS attended portions of WLRP's two week Summer Turtle Camp, held for nearly 40 elementary school students.

Language Resources

The websites featured in this document provide resources relevant to Native American languages.  You can find this list on the Resource page of the ANA website.  Please check back often for updates, or to suggest new resources for us to add.

Native Language Preservation: A Reference Guide for Establishing Archives and Repositories
The ANA Native Language Preservation Reference Guide discusses the importance of language repositories to long-term language preservation efforts. 

Head Start Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness Resource Catalogue
Volume two of the catalogue contains information on Native and Heritage Language Preservation, Revitalization, and Maintenance.

Spoken First
Spoken First, created and maintained by Falmouth Institute, is a resource for news about American Indian languages. This blog, updated daily, keeps track of language news coming from Native American communities across the country. 

Center for Applied Linguistics
The Center for Applied Linguistics is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive range of research-based information, tools, and resources related to language and culture.  The center is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1959 and headquartered in Washington, DC.

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition Less Commonly Taught Languages
This searchable database allows users to learn where specific Less Commonly Taught Languages (all languages with the exception of English, French, German, and Spanish) are taught in North America.

Endangered Languages Project
The Endangered Languages Project is an online resource to record, access, and share samples of and research on endangered languages, as well as to share advice and best practices for those working to document or strengthen languages under threat.

Our Mother Tongues
The interactive Our Mother Tongues website shares a wealth of information about North America’s indigenous languages.  Each featured language page contains video and audio clips, a snapshot of the language’s status and history, and a user-friendly forum for sharing ideas.

Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education Article for Teachers
This journal article provides a collection of resources for teaching American Indian students.  The resources give a background in Indian education and suggest methods for teaching and integrating American Indian content into traditional subject areas.

Regional Resources

University of California Berkeley Languages of California Survey
For its size, California is linguistically the most diverse area of North America. To learn more about the languages of California, visit the UC-Berkeley survey.

Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival
Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival is a native non-profit with the mission to foster the restoration and revival of indigenous California languages.

Aha Punana Leo School
Located in Hawaii, Aha Punana Leo School is one of the first full-scale indigenous language immersion efforts in the U.S.

Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska
This website features a map that displays indigenous peoples and languages of Alaska by region.

Akwesasne Freedom School
Based in New York, the Akwesasne Freedom School (AFS) is an independent elementary/middle school that provides immersion learning in Mohawk. 


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Last Reviewed: October 18, 2016